Dantesque crossing of three French swimmers highlights the pollution of Lake Titicaca

“Several times, I thought we were going to spend it”, says Théo Curin, happy and relieved to have reached dry land. At 21, the young quadriampute swimmer and vice-champion of the disabled world has just achieved a feat as impressive as it is unprecedented: an unassisted crossing, in total autonomy, of the largest freshwater lake in South America. The highest too, at an altitude of 3,800 meters.

With her comrades, swimmer Malia Metella, Olympic vice-champion, and Matthieu Witvoet, who defines himself as an “eco-adventurer”, they swam for ten days in cold waters of barely 10 ° C, towing a boat. completely eco-designed, on which they slept and ate. One hundred and twenty kilometers of crossing – three times more than that of the English Channel – between Copacabana, in Bolivia, and the bay of Puno, in Peru.

Read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers The crazy challenge of Théo Curin, disabled athlete and altitude swimmer

For ten days, they had to face all the elements: “Nothing happened as we had imagined”, confides by phone Anne Bayard, director of the project and agent of Théo Curin. Storms, hail, thunderstorms: “They had apocalyptic weather conditions! “, she confides. The crossing turned into an odyssey: “They spent a whole night without sleeping in their life jackets, then they had to face a storm, where they ended up with two inches of ice on their raft. “

A year of training in the Pyrenees

Despite this hostile environment and several phases of discouragement, the trio did not waver. A challenge for Théo Curin in particular, amputated at the age of 6, after a lightning meningitis:

I want to give this message, that anything can happen to us in life, but we have to believe in our dreams. My first dream was to become a Paralympic champion, but I had to give up my career because I was facing inequalities, I was swimming against guys who had both hands. So I set myself this other challenge. “

The three athletes trained for more than a year, especially in Lake Matemale (Pyrénées-Orientales), in conditions close to real, with sessions of cold baths and intense swimming at altitude. Because on Lake Titicaca, at 3,800 meters, the air is rarefied and the effort all the more difficult.

Beyond the sporting feat, the athletes wish to carry a message on the environment so that their adventure can be used to publicize Titicaca, which has been facing major pollution for several years. On its shores proliferates an enormous mantle of green algae. For local communities, who live mainly from fishing and agriculture, pollution has disastrous consequences. Many of them have had to give up their traditional activities and retrain.

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