Triple Crowner Srikaanth Viswanathan of India

Courtesy of Srikaanth Viswanathan from Bangalore, India.

46-year-old Srikaanth Viswanathan from Bangalore, India completed the 33.5 km crossing of the English Channel in July 2018 in 14 hours 7 minutes, becoming the oldest Indian to achieve the feat.

Srikaanth learned to swim in 2005 when a damaged ligament in his 33-year-old knee threatened to derail his sporting activities. A few weeks after he began to learn, he had a near-death experience when he almost drowned in the deep end of the swimming pool. Traumatized by the experience, he almost quit swimming, but his demanding coach coaxed him back to the pool. With a completion of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, his traumatic experience is well in the past.

Since 2008 when he first heard about swimming across the English Channel, Srikaanth nurtured a dream to make an attempt. In 2014, he transformed himself from masters swimming competitions in sprint pool events to his first open water swim. The transformation to the open water forced himself to face his gut-level fear of swimming in wide-open, dark, and unfamiliar bodies of water. He paced himself while going after his dream, making the English Channel crossing 3 times over a 4-hour period:

* as part of an 8-person relay team in 2015
* as part of a 4-person relay team in 2016
* as part of a 2-person relay team in 2018

The relay swims prepared him before he made his solo attempt in July, 2018 after taking a sabbatical from his job at GE Healthcare.

Srikaanth has a passion and love for the sport, and for coaching others from young to old, helping them to achieve their swimming dreams.

He was recently nominated as India’s representative for the Channel Swimming Association and he takes that honor very seriously as he is now coaching, promoting and supporting English Channel aspirants and others through his speeches and activities throughout India.

Ever since his crossing, Srikaanth has been regularly sharing the story of his journey in TEDx events (see above), with school children, college students, corporate executives, resident communities and others in the hope of inspiring others to pursue their own dreams. He believes that no dream is too big to achieve when it is backed by commitment and hard work – and he talks about his own journey to achieve the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming:

Open Water Swimming: Of the 3 swims in the Triple Crown, which swim was the most difficult and why?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: I think each of the 3 swims presented a different kind of challenges which made them unique in their own way. For example, coming from warm Indian waters, swimming in cold English Channel water with jellyfish stings for 14+ hours posed a very big challenge to me, both mentally and physically. While Catalina Channel waters did not pose that problem so much, swimming through pitch dark waters for over 7 hours in some choppy conditions really tested my swimming skills and my nerves that night. Many suggested that Manhattan Island swim would be a much easier one compared to the other two, but I encountered one of the toughest conditions in the water during my swim that day with winds and currents in opposing directions, creating extreme choppiness. I could never settle into a rhythm for a long time. I would rate that day’s conditions as the worst of the 3 swims.

Open Water Swimming: Of the 3 swims in the Triple Crown, which swim was the most enjoyable and why?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: Having said the above, each of the swims also brought in something special in them. If bioluminescence of the Catalina Channel waters was simply magical, then to be surrounded with hundreds of dolphins that greeted me upon daybreak was simply exhilarating. Similarly, clear waters of English Channel with multiple layers of jellies was enchanting, of course not while they were stinging which they do the best. The joy of being continuously encouraged by people standing on bridges and shoreline and the beautiful fish-view of the Manhattan skyline was extraordinary.

Open Water Swimming: Were you thinking the same thing at the start of each of the 3 swims?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: Yes, I had a deep sense of gratitude to my creator, my family and friends without whose support and encouragement I would not have had a chance to experience any of those. At the same time, I was also very proud of the fact that I could dream and reach for the sky considering my very modest beginnings. Thanks to the technology, I have been fortunate enough to have my family being “virtually” present with me throughout and after I completed the swim and share the emotions together.

Open Water Swimming: Did you eat and drink the same things during each of the 3 swims?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: Majorly yes, my liquid feeds have remained the same. However, I made few minor tweaks to my solids based on feedback from others and from my own experiences. And it has worked wonderfully well so far.

Open Water Swimming: What other open water swims have you done?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: I took to open water swimming only in 2015 after a long struggle with myself in overcoming my various inhibitions like fear of dark waters, marine life, muscle cramps, drowning, etc. I have been training and participating in 5 km and 10 km open water events in India over last few years. I have also done multiple relay swims in the English Channel including an 8-person, 4-person and 2-person relays) and in Catalina (with a 6-person relay).

Open Water Swimming: Did you have the same crew on each of your 3 swims?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: Unfortunately, I could not for various reasons. However, I have been fortunate enough to team up with good crew every time I ventured out.

Open Water Swimming: During the most difficult point of the swims, how did you overcome the difficulties – either mental or physical – that you were facing at the time?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: Very good question. I have always adapted different strategies for overcoming difficulties. For example, I try to take my mind away from the pain, boredom or the fear by setting small intermediate goals while swimming. Every time when I achieved them, I would reward myself with something; it could be my favorite laddoo or an opportunity to pee – delayed gratification. I would also start picturing nice moments after I complete the swim and detail it out mentally. This has two benefits: while it takes the mind away from the pain, it also brings in lots of positivity and hope for my swim.

Open Water Swimming: How do you train for your marathon swims?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: I usually train in the 50 meter pool as I do not live closer to sea or lakes in India. Initially, it used to be very difficult to do long swims in the pool as I would get distracted due to frequent flip turns, but I have trained myself to get into a trance state even in the pool. When I trained for my English Channel solo, I had no idea how much training is needed to have a reasonable chance of success. So trained like crazy; many times I did 4-5 hours of training every day, five days per week. And then the lack of cold water access made me very nervous. I went to a hill station Nanital and trained in the lakes there. I learnt a lot about my body and mind during my English Channel training. But in general, I typically train for 5 days of swimming per week in pool with each session lasting about an hour or so with 10 km swims once every few weeks. As I approached closer to my event, I started to increase my duration and distance, and start tailoring my swim for the unique characteristic of my swim (like cold water in the English Channel or night swimming in Catalina). I also complement my swims with at least 4-5 sessions in gym. I think this is very essential piece of my training.

Open Water Swimming: Do you have any recovery methods that you use after your marathon swims?

Srikaanth Viswanathan: I try avoid going for a swim for few days to let the muscles recover from the wear and tear. If I have access to hot and cold baths, I love to do that as well. It has given me much quicker recovery after long and hard swims. I also make it a point to do a farewell swim / thanksgiving swim before I leave that city.



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