U.S. endurance swimmer Sarah Thomas has become the first person to swim across the English Channel four times without stopping, refueling only on a liquid formula during her 54-hour feat.
She came ashore on a beach near Dover, on the south coast of England, on Tuesday morning, exhausted and with a sore throat from all the saltwater.
“I was throwing up, I was sick,” she said, huddled in a towel.
“I was really just pretty numb,” she told the BBC soon afterward in a croaky voice.
“There were a lot of people on the beach to meet me and wish me well. That was really nice of them, but I feel just mostly stunned right now, I just can’t believe we did it.”
In theory, the route that Thomas swam should have been 80 miles (130 km) long, but due to strong currents in the Channel, she in fact swam 130 miles (210 km). She said she saw lots of fish and jellyfish along the way.
Previously, four swimmers had crossed the water between England and France three times without stopping.
Thomas consumed only a liquid diet during her swim. Her support crew, following her in a boat, would throw her a bottle containing a mix of carbohydrates, electrolytes and some caffeine, with a little apple juice to improve the flavour.
“That’s what I ate most of the way,” she said.
Upon arrival, she tried to celebrate with champagne but found it did not go down well. She did manage to eat some M&M chocolates.
“Hopefully I can sleep the rest of the day. I’m pretty out of it and pretty tired right now, for sure,” she said.
She dedicated her swim to “all the survivors out there” and for all those starting their “cancer journey.”
“This is for those of us who have prayed for our lives, who have wondered with despair about what comes next, and have battled through pain and fear to overcome,” she wrote.
Thomas’ achievement has drawn praise from leading figures in the swimming world and beyond. Lewis Pugh, an endurance swimmer who is best known for undertaking the first swim across the North Pole, described her as “extraordinary, amazing, super-human.”
“Just when we think we’ve reached the limit of human endurance, someone shatters the records,” he wrote on Twitter. “Huge congratulations to Sarah Thomas on swimming the English Channel 4x continuously.”
He added: “Sarah Thomas has overcome 5 major hurdles to become the first person to swim the English Channel four times non-stop: 1. The cold. 2. Jellyfish. 3. Sheer exhaustion. 4. Keeping her mind going. 5. Believing that it was possible.”
Documenting The Feat
Thomas’ historic achievement is set to be featured in the upcoming documentary “The Other Side” made by filmmaker Jon Washer.
Washer told CNN that he met Thomas through marathon swimmer Elaine Howley. “Elaine, one of Sarah’s crew members, is a good friend of mine and introduced me to Sarah,” he said.
“We just knew her story needed to be told and began producing The Other Side via a successful crowd-funding campaign. And here we are.”
He said that filming the crossing for the last 60 hours “was a nightmare.”
“But Sarah is so tough and inspirational, there was just no room for failure on my part. And we’re not anywhere close to finished,” he said.
By Estelle Shirbon
The CNN Wire contributed to this report.