English Channel challenge for better education conditions
Ece Çelik – ISTANBUL
Four swimmers, nationals of Turkey, Iran and the United Kingdom, have been training hard to cross the English Channel as part of a fundraising campaign for an educational non-governmental organization.
The team calling themselves “Out of Our Comfort Zone” includes Deniz Kayadelen, a record-holder Turkish-German professional swimmer, Raha Akhavan, an Iranian academic from the Sabancı University in Istanbul, Emre Deliveli, a Turkish economist, and Darren Watson, a Scottish swimmer. The quest will kick off with Deliveli’s solo performance on Aug. 22 and is planned to be finished on Aug. 28.
Akhavan will get the title of being the first Iranian woman to complete the swimming course between Britain and France.
“When in Iran, I was swimming in a semi-professional way. After arriving in Turkey I started to think about improving my swimming skills. I had my first long-distance swimming experiences in the Bosphorus. Meeting the swimming community in Turkey was a big chance for me,” she told daily Hürriyet on July 10.
“I trained constantly to develop my swimming time periods and endurance. I started to get prepared for crossing the English Channel. We have been training in the pool and at the sea with weekly targets. I have been swimming four or five days a week, 40-50 kilometers in a month,” she said. Actually, the idea of organizing a team to cross the Channel came up when Kayadelen and Deliveli met in 2018 during the annual event of swimming between the Greek island of Symi and the Turkish resort town of Datça. Although it was Deliveli’s first open sea challenge, he liked to push his limits in every next attempt.
“A short while after I started swimming, I realized that I could swim long distances,” he said.
He will most probably be the first person to cross the English Channel, a performance made by a number of people fewer than those who climbed Mt. Everest, after beginning to swim long distances for only a few years.
“The minimum width of the English Channel is about 34 kilometers. The water is very cold, at around 16 degrees Celsius. The jellyfish, although not deadly, hassle swimmers by causing skin erythema. In the first phase of departure from England and in the final part near France, the currents obstruct swimmers,” he told of the 16-hour challenge.
The main objective of the contest is to raise money for the Association for Supporting Contemporary Life (ÇYDD), a Turkish NGO which has been distributing scholarships to students, and building and supplying schools for 30 years.
“We have started works in the field of sports in recent years. We have set up a sports unit for this,” said Serpil Çakmak Karan, ÇYDD Sports Coordinator.
“This fundraising event is a first for ÇYDD as well. Our purpose is to grant scholarships to 500 students,” she added.
“Another aim of such activities is to imbue sporting values to the scholarship holders. The ‘Out of Our comfort Zone’ group will be a model for our students.”