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Teenager trains for English Channel swim

Getting through your final year of school can be tough enough, but year 12 Narrabundah College student Ben Freeman has added a solo swim across the English Channel to his list of goals for 2015. 

Few have successfully crossed the frigid choppy waters between England and France but that made the challenge more appealing. 

"More people have climbed Mount Everest than swum the English Channel," he said.

"It's renowned for being one of the hardest open water swims you can do. There's really just an elite club of people who have completed the swim." 

The tall 17-year-old from Red Hill has been doing open water events since he was nine years old.

He said the idea of giving channel swimming a go took hold when he was training as a youngster in Queensland with Australian swimmer Trent Grimsey, an English Channel world record holder.


Freeman has completed several 10-kilometre and 15km open water swims through his teenage years around Australia and recently in Hong Kong. The shortest distance across the English Channel is 32 kilometres. 

Freeman said there would be plenty of challenges to contend with for his scheduled endurance swim in August.

"It's a swim across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes," he said. "There's waves and chop and on top of that there are a lot of jellyfish."

While a pilot boat will accompany him, with a crew providing encouragement and sustenance, Freeman said his top concern was the threat of hypothermia.

On top of his rigorous training regime in Canberra with coach Les Barclay, Freeman will take part in a cold water swim camp in Victoria to prepare himself for hours of swimming in temperatures of 12 and 13 degrees. 

"The rule, in keeping with the traditions of the first swimmers, is that you have to do it in just togs," he said. "You have the options of covering your body in wool fat or Vaseline." 

After he takes the plunge at the English Channel in August, it will be back to the books for the  teenager, who hopes to secure a spot as a Royal Australian Air Force cadet after he graduates.