LANGKAWI: Penang-born swimmer Abdul Malik Mydin made history yesterday when he became the first Malaysian to swim across the Straits of Langkawi from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi.
The 28-year-old businessman reached the Kuah jetty near Dataran Helang here at 11.45am, completing his 48km swim in 14 hours and three minutes.
At the jetty, Abdul Malik was accorded a grand welcome, as he was greeted by a large crowd who were there to cheer him after his feat.
He also made history for himself as he managed to complete the feat, billed as the Langkawi Challenge, about four hours ahead of schedule.
Abdul Malik, who had been scheduled to complete the swim between 18 and 20 hours, left the Kuala Perlis jetty at 9.42pm on Saturday after the flag-off ceremony by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
This is his final training in his attempt to swim across the English Channel in the middle of August.
At a ceremony to welcome Abdul Malik, Dr Mahathir congratulated him for his success and hoped that it would inspire other Malaysians to achieve similar feats.
“It is not easy to swim 48km, setting off last night, without sleep and with limited food. But he was in high spirits to continue his swim.
“He was swimming at 58 strokes per minute,” said Dr Mahathir.
This meant Abdul Malik’s swim involved an estimated 49,000 strokes.
Abdul Malik, when interviewed, said: “I had promised the Prime Minister that I would finish the swim in less than 18 hours if Dr Mahathir would come and witness it and I have fulfilled my promise to him.”
He said the presence of Dr Mahathir, who went on a boat to accompany him in his final 500m of the swim, had inspired him to speed up.
Upon reaching the last 250m, Abdul Malik went out of the cage specially built to protect him from being attacked by jellyfish and sharks, and was accompanied by 20 canoes to guide him to the jetty.
During his swim, Abdul Malik was accompanied by his Australian coach John Van Visse who fed him every 20 minutes with liquid food and a specially formulated drink called Maxim.
He swam inside the cage, which was dragged by a fishing boat at a speed of between 2.5kph and 3kph, accompanied by a flotilla of boats and canoes from the marine police, navy and Fisheries Department.
Abdul Malik said his swim went smoothly during the first half of the journey but he started to have problems with his goggles, which later caused him to throw up.
However, he changed the goggles and recovered quickly.
He said he was fortunate because the sea was calm and the weather was fine for most of his swim.
The swimmer said he was happy with his success after training for about three years under Van Visse.
During the swim, Abdul Malik was also accompanied by two representatives from the British Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation Freda Streeter and Frank Richard, national swimming coach Peh Gin Hai and medical official and Universiti Putra Malaysia lecturer Prof Madya Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa.
Van Visse said Abdul Malik had complained of tiredness after completing about 24km of his swim but he did not give up.
At one point, the coach handed over a mini Malaysian flag to Abdul Malik to boost his spirit.
Abdul Malik said he would rest before going to Australia to start intensive training in July to prepare for the English Channel challenge.
In 1998 and 1999, another Malaysian, Ang Kean Kee, failed twice to swim cross the strait in his campaign to collect funds for two brothers because of bad weather and rough seas.
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