Saturday, November 1, 2008

A New Zealand Open Water Swimming Hero

As open water swimming continues to expand and develop around the world, it is often refreshing to look back at the sport's past and remember what individuals helped make the sport what it is today.

Philip Rush is one of these individuals whose broad shoulders, forceful determination and cheerful personality embody the sport.

Rush, now a 45-year-old firefighter from Wellington, New Zealand, remains the world record holder for the fastest two- and three-way crossings of the English Channel. In his epic 1987 swim, he swam his first leg in 7 hours 55 minutes, his second leg in 8 hours 15 minutes and his third leg in 12 hours 11 minutes for a double-crossing record of 16 hours 10 minutes and a triple-crossing record of 28 hours 21 minutes.

Judging from his split times, one would guess that Rush significantly slowed on his third leg, but people who were on his escort boat recall that the tides simply turned on him and it was tough going on the third leg.

Only two other individuals have completed an English Channel triple crossing and they are very well-known in the annals of marathon swimming: Jon Erikson in 1981 and Alison Streeter in 1990.

Besides his incredible triple crossing, Rush, an inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, also completed a 17 hour 56 minute double-crossing of English Channel in 1985, two double-crossings of the cold and treacherous 16-mile Cook Strait in New Zealand (16 hours 16 minutes in 1984 and 18 hours 37 minutes in 1988) and had two extraordinarily tough Lac St-Jean double-crossing professional races against the legendary Claudio Plit.

Some of his other marathon swimming highlights include:

1. Crossing the English Channel 10 times
2. Crossing the Cook Strait (North to South) in 8 hours 56 minutes in 1979.
3. Placing 2nd in a 38K international race in the Nile River, Egypt in 1979.
4. Placing 3rd in the 30K world championships in Italy in 1979.
5. Placing 3rd in the 30K world championships in Italy in 1981.
6. Finishing 7th in the 42K Lac St-Jean pro race in 1981.
7. Winning the 22K Wellington Harbour, New Zealand race in 1982.
8. Winning the 22K Otago Harbour, New Zealand race in 1982.
9. Winning the 24K Australian Championships in 1982.
10. Crossing the 32K Catalina Channel in 8 hours 2 minutes in 1982.
11. Finishing 5th in the 22-mile Atlantic City pro race in 1983.
12. Finishing 5th in the 42K Lac St-Jean pro race in 1983.
13. Finishing 4th in the 48K Lac Memphremagog pro race in 1983.
14. Winning the 29K Paspediac, Canada race in 1983.
15. Finishing 5th in the 22-mile Atlantic City pro race in 1984.
16. Finishing 8th in the 48K Lac Memphremagog pro race in 1984.
17. Finishing 4th in the 42K Lac St-Jean pro race in 1984.
18. Finishing 2nd in the 29K Paspediac, Canada race in 1984.
19. 1st double-crossing of 84K Lake Taupo in 23 hours 6 minutes in 1985.
20. Doing the Ironman Enduro Rotorua (included 10 hours of swimming) in 1985.
21. Finishing 6th in the 48K Lac Memphremagog pro race in 1985.
22. Finishing 2nd in the 62K Lac St-Jean Double-Crossing pro race in 1985.
23. Finishing 4th in the 48K Lac Memphremagog pro race in 1986.
24. Finishing 2nd in the 62K Lac St-Jean Double-Crossing pro race in 1986.
25. Finishing 2nd in the 48K Lac Memphremagog pro race in 1987.
26. Finishing 7th in the 48K Lac Memphremagog pro race in 1988.
27. Crossing Maori Kapiti Island to d'Uurville Island.

Fortunately, for the sport, Rush continues to play a valuable role as he coaches and advises swimmers who challenge the Cook Strait (see photo above). To date, he has coached 27 swimmers successfully across the Cook Strait and, most recently, has started to help develop New Zealand's open water swimming program.

Rush, a beacon of the past and a standard-bearer for the future.

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