A historic swimming journey was completed this year as Jaimie Monahan literally swam around the world. In an exclusive interview with Kathimerini, Monahan talked about the extreme water temperatures, her favorite moment of the journey, but also the giant jellyfish that left her hand paralyzed for a swim in Alexandria, Egypt.
For the past three years, the 38-year old American was preparing for this unique journey daily, following a unique routine that included working out in the gym, doing yoga and swimming in extreme weather conditions.
This summer, she achieved her ultimate goal, as she was able to complete six marathon swims (each marathon swim is at least 10 kilometers) on six continents in 15 days.
The six swims ranged from 10km to 46km each and by the end of her journey she had completed a total of 100km over the course of two weeks.
In that period, the American athlete swam in six different continents and many unique places. Her journey included swims in New York, Australia, Singapore, Egypt and Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
She says her favorite part of the challenge was swimming on the coast of Australia, passing the stunning cliffs and the beaches of Sydney: “I loved swimming through a rainstorm in Singapore, and the clear, crisp water of Lac Leman in Switzerland was so refreshing after a series of hot swims. The best very best moment of the challenge may have been passing stunning cliffs and beaches in Sydney, or the final miles of the project in my home of New York City at the end of a 46-km loop around Manhattan Island.”
As for her least favorite: “My least enjoyable swim was probably in Cartagena; it is a beautiful city with so much history, but the water was very warm, and I was mostly swimming against the current, so at times it was quite uncomfortable.”
However, this historic challenge was not easy to complete successfully. Monahan faced many obstacles during these two weeks, and unpleasant surprises: “The extreme water temperatures (ranging from 15C in Sydney to 33C in Cartagena, Colombia), adverse currents, poisonous jellyfish, and local regulations were some obstacles I had to face. In Alexandria, Egypt I was enjoying the skyline and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea when I started to see large white jellyfish. I tried to avoid them, but I was stung three times. I had searing pain everywhere they touched me, and the last sting actually paralyzed my left hand for much of the swim. I was very worried that the venom could overwhelm me and leave me unconscious or force me to end my swim but fortunately, that did not happen. It was just very painful.”
Besides the obstacles she faced during the journey and also during her preparation, Monahan enjoyed every second of the process, and a pleasant surprise was waiting for her in Antarctica: “I was doing an ice mile (1.6km swim in 0C water wearing just a swimsuit) in Antarctica earlier this year, and curious penguins came to swim alongside me.” As for her training program, she shared the following: “For me, exercise is revitalizing, it’s all the other things like work, obligations, and travel that can be tiring.”
Monahan’s love for swimming did not start in the last couple of years. Since she was in high school, she loved sports and especially swimming in a pool, until she decided to participate in a triathlon event: “Growing up I loved the pool. Clear, consistent water, no surprises. One day I signed up for a triathlon which included a swim from Alcatraz Island to mainland San Francisco and fell in love with the feel, the excitement, and the scenery of open water swimming.”
The 38-year old has been an open-water swimmer since her mid-20’s and has logged over 75 major swimming events in her career. Also, she was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. However, her most memorable experience is the following: “A few years ago, I was fortunate to win the International Winter Swimming Association’s inaugural World Cup. The ceremony took place on the last night of the World Championships in beautiful Tyumen, Siberia, Russia. It was an amazing event, and I was so proud to receive this award surrounded by friends from all over the world.”
Finally, Monahan shared with Kathimerini her advice on young athletes wanting to succeed and follow sports professionally: “Dream big, work hard, and hopefully your adventures will be limited only by your own imagination.”