Saturday, April 20

Father of two achieves longest solo swimming feat


KOTA KINABALU: A 41-year-old father of two made a successful entry into the Malaysian Book of Records after he completed swimming solo for 60 kilometres from Kuala Penyu to Tanjung Aru here within 24 hours.

Despite suffering bouts of cramps, frustrations, exhaustion and fear of the unknown as he swam throughout the night, Mohd Ikhmil Fawedz Mohd Hanif finally reached the beach at Tanjung Aru about 9am yesterday.

In breaking the national record for a solo swim uncaged, a huge part of his gratitude goes to the Fire and Rescue, Royal Malaysian Police and maritime team that accompanied him from the start of his swim at 9am on Saturday from Kuala Penyu.

Suffering bouts of cramps, said Ikhmil, was easily the biggest challenge he had to overcome in his feat to break the solo swim record.

“I had my first bout of cramps at the 20-kilometre mark. My hamstrings were hurting so bad that I couldn’t make any headway. This was when I had to rest on buoys – and contemplated on giving up at some point.

“I lost count of how many times I had the cramps. But thank God I was able to manage, of course, with the help of my heroes – the Fire and Rescue, police and maritime team, and from the navy who came at the last minute.

“They are the real heroes. I couldn’t have done it without them,” said the visibly elated and grateful Ikhmil.

Swimming at night, he said, brought out some of his biggest fear as he could not visualise his swimming strokes, nor see what unknown sea creatures swimming beneath that he may encounter, unlike during the day.

“It became quite scary for me, as I could not make out my swimming strokes and I began to realise that there were big fish around me, barracudas – which I did not know existed in Sabah waters, sharks, etc. When dawn came, I was so relieved that I was unscathed! Thank God that I had the Fire and Rescue team to accompany me and helped keep the coast clear,” he related.

Ikhmil felt his world caving in at the last few kilometres of his swim, when his energy ran out and frustrations started kicking in, to the point of shedding tears.

“I became so physically weak and frustrated with myself that I even punched the boat and cried. At that point, I had to take power liquid gels (energy boosting) twice immediately – which you would normally take only once every two to three hours.

“It was my heroes, who understood that the frustration was only the result of an extremely exhausted man who swam 60 kilometres nonstop. They kept telling me that I can do it and gave me the moral support I needed.”

Ikhmil, who hails from Selangor and has been in Sabah for almost two years, had had a niche for swimming since the tender age of seven, when his late father would take him along and encouraged him to swim.

He used to swim around the jetty of the former company that he worked for, Preston Shipyard in Labuan, where he met a little friend, Nemo, a clownfish who would accompany him everyday during his swims there.

“When I go swimming, I would think that this Nemo, and one day it just appeared out of nowhere and accompanied me during my swimming sessions everyday since then.

“Not too long after, I had this voice telling me to go for a record-breaking attempt. So after weighing on the idea and making some risk calculations, I decided to take the plunge and change my luck, two months after,” said Ikhmil.

He quit his good-paying job as an operations manager of a shipping company in July last year, and then moved to Kuala Lumpur where he tried to make ends meet by doing part-time tutoring with some help from his wife, Mazuin Ibrahim, to support their family of four, in between intensive trainings and preparations for the record-breaking attempt.

Ikhmil started intensified training on July 25 last year, swimming 20 to 30 kilometres in a week. While it may have helped in strengthening his stamina and physical ability, it was nothing compared to the actual condition at sea.

He then continued his day and night training at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) upon returning to Sabah on March 26.

After such an exhausting and spirit-breaking experience, would Ikhmil dare to take the record-breaking attempt further to a higher and bigger platform, like the world record?

“The current record is held by the late Veljko Rogosic – 224 kilometres in 50 hours and 10 minutes solo marathon swim across the Adriatic Sea from Grado, Croatia to Riccione, Italy, in 2006. He was 65 at that time. I’m 41 now and I hope to be able to do so in two years’ time. God-willing.

“But to break a record of that distance, of course more proper training is needed. It will be a different module, different training from what I did for this one. And it will require an incredible amount of inner strength and energy.

“But I think, aside from the cash flow problems, with proper arrangement and proper training, nothing is impossible,” said Ikhmil, who was still able to smile and answer the questions warmly despite his exhaustion, during the interview after reaching Tanjung Aru here yesterday.

Ikhmil’s optimism goes beyond taking the plunge and breaking the record, as he is also positive that blessings will come – apart from wanting to set up a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to help talented Malaysians who aspire to break a record, just like he did when he first started out to accomplish this mission.

“After this, I’m going back to my normal life. I have to work and pursue a career. Unfortunately, right now, I have not secured any job yet. But being the person I am and with God’s will, everything will be just fine,” he said.

The father of five-year-old Damia Humaira and four-year-old Ryan Hafiy has also started training his children in swimming.

“I miss them so much. I’m convinced that they will really be proud of their dad. And I’m so tired. I really need to eat,” said the nation’s current record-holder of the longest solo swim.