*Seven Qatari amateur athletes dedicate achievement to His Highness the Amir and the people of Qatar
Seven Qatari amateur athletes successfully crossed the English Channel on Saturday, marking a historic feat that the team has dedicated to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and the people of Qatar.
Team Qatar Channel Swim now becomes the 767th relay team to conquer the busiest waterway in the world since 1875, known as the “Everest of open water swimming”.
“It’s a great honour to be a part of a team that made history today (Saturday). We worked hard for this over the past few months, and today we reaped the result,” said the team founder, 52-year-old surgeon and healthcare official Dr Faleh Mohamed Hussain Ali.
He noted that only a few swimmers in the world decide to take up this gruelling challenge every year.
“All the team members gave their best and faced very difficult swimming conditions, but when we saw Qatar’s flag being raised at the finish point, we knew it was all worthy,” stressed Dr Ali, the oldest member of the team.
Dr Ali and his teammates Dr Mohamed Jaham al-Kuwari (surgeon and head of Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation), Dr Jamal Rashid al-Khanji (entrepreneur and former surgeon), Dr Khalid Mohamed al-Jalham (surgeon and healthcare official), Dr Nasser Saqr al-Mohannadi (petroleum engineer and climate change expert), Fahad Mohamed al-Buenain (marketing and corporate communications expert) and Talal Abdulaziz al-Emadi (legal expert) kicked off their attempt from Folkestone near Dover on the English coast.
The swim covered around 48km and lasted for 16 hours and 34 minutes on relay basis to reach the French coast near Wissant, a seaside commune between Calais and Boulogne.
“I have been through some difficult challenges before, which included scaling some of the world’s highest mountains with my friend al-Buenain, but the Channel swim was completely different,” al-Emadi said. “It was extremely challenging.”
Fahad al-Buenain started his swim in the dark with the cliffs of Dover in the background
Professor Nasser al-Mohannadi takes a stroke towards France
Dr Mohammed al-Kuwari warming up with teammates Talal al-Emadi and Dr Khalid al-Jalham
“The cold waters and the strong currents required pushing yourself over the limit, I never faced anything like this before,” he added. “At some point you feel that your body cannot take it anymore, but by being mentally strong you keep on going, and of course the support of everyone in the team was also crucial in this success.”
Facing one of the toughest challenges in the world, the Channel swimmers had to go through several hurdles such as strong tides, cold wind, waves, oil slicks, jelly fish, fog and possible rain or lightning along the way.
The feat was even more special for the team, whose members are aged between 34 and 52 years, as none of them is a professional athlete.
Team performance director Ryan Bowd noted that swimming across the Channel is usually a ‘professional athlete-only’ challenge, which has been successfully done by 1,508 individual swimmers in the past 143 years.
“So, for seven amateur athletes who have full-time jobs with families and commitments, to put in such effort during the last nine months, to show such true dedication, to be able to grow both physically and mentally, to be able to push themselves to limits they have never thought was possible, is truly inspirational,” he stressed.
The team members thanked their families for fully supporting them in the past few months, as well as their gold partners, Al Asmakh Real Estate Development and BMI Fitness.
A message for the world
Faced with the unjust blockade that four Arab countries imposed on Qatar in June 2017, the Team Qatar Channel Swim stressed that they wanted to send an important message to the world through their feat.
“We wanted to show the world the real strength of the Qatari people. When we face pressure, we fight hard to achieve our goals,” Dr Mohamed Jaham al-Kuwari, a member of the team, said.