AS a seasoned athlete, Mohammed Sofian Ismail, 59, knew that something was amiss halfway through his swim during an open water swim event in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan, in December last year.
“My heart was beating very fast and I was out of breath. I just knew that something was not right,” he said.
Fortunately, the safety officials, who knew Sofian was a strong swimmer, noticed that he had stopped and rushed to his aid.
“I had suffered a heart attack. If it wasn’t for their quick action, I don’t think I would have survived. They got me to shore and there was already an ambulance on standby. They rushed me to the Port Dickson hospital and the doctors saved my life,” said Sofian.
He underwent a stent insertion procedure in February and by March, he was back in action, participating in the Oceanman open- water event in Putrajaya.
“After the operation, doctors gave me the go-ahead to resume training. It’s what I love doing and I will continue to do it,” said Sofian after completing the 16km Perhentian Island Marathon Swim in Terengganu recently.
Besides Sofian, 14 other swimmers took on the challenging swim around the scenic Perhentian Island.
Race organiser Amirizal Ishak, 48, said that this was the first time an official race around the island was organised.
“We have previously organised swim camps in Perhentian but this is the first time we have attempted such a long distance,” said Amirizal, adding that such an event did come with its own set of challenges.
“One of our main concerns was the safety of the swimmers. Perhentian is a popular tourist destination so the boat traffic is very heavy,” he said.
The 16km race was limited to only 15 swimmers because each swimmer had to have a boat with a boatman and feeder accompanying them throughout the route.
The role of a feeder was to pass food and drinks to the swimmer at agreed intervals.
“It was not easy arranging for the boats but we worked with the Perhentian Island Boat Operators Association to mobilise the resources that we needed,” he said.
Amirizal himself is an avid swimmer who got interested in open-water swimming in 2013.
He enjoyed open-water swimming but as there was a lack of events, he took matters into his own hands and started organising races and swim camps.
“I used to organise weekend swims in Port Dickson and there were about 20 people who attended. Now, we have about 100 people at each event so the interest is growing,” he said.
The 16km marathon swim was won by 37-year-old open-water swim coach from Spain, Alberto Perez, who swam in Asia for the first time.
“It was quite an easy swim for me. Just a week before this, I did a 28km race in 14° waters. There was a bit of current but the hardest part for me was the warm waters here,” said Perez, who finished the race in four hours 13 minutes.
Out of the 15 swimmers, three were female with Claire Parsons from Britain being the only finisher, clocking a time of 5’46:27.