Amputee Completes N.Z. Endurance Swim


A one-legged Italian swimmer on Monday became the first amputee to swim across the treacherous Cook Strait, and the first person to complete the feat in the cold New Zealand spring.

Distance swimmer Salvatore Cimmino, 47, who lost his right leg to cancer at 15, crossed the choppy 26 kilometer (16 mile) channel which lies between the North and South Islands in just under eight hours and 20 minutes.

Supporter and eight times Cook Strait swimmer Phillip Rush told Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper that Cimmino was very exhausted.

"And he's very cold," he added, as the swimmer lay wrapped in heavy blankets.

Cimmino began his epic journey at Wellington's Makara coast on Sunday at 8:45am (1845 GMT) and made land at South Island's Perano Head more than eight hours later.

He is the first to complete a crossing of the strait at this time of year, when the conditions are notoriously rough and cold sea and air temperatures increase the risk of hypothermia.

Rush told the Dominion Post the swimmer had stopped every 20 minutes for high carbohydrate hot drinks to keep his energy levels up while staff on two support vessels monitored the tides and winds through the journey.

However, the swim will not be included in the record books because Cimmino wore a special wetsuit to keep warm, which also aided his buoyancy and speed.

The feat is part of a global swimming tour aimed at raising disability awareness.

Cimmino, who has already swum the English Channel, had his right leg amputated began swimming later in life as therapy.

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