GUWAHATI, July 31: Ace swimmer Elvis Ali Hazarika, who recently swam across the English Channel to become the first from Assam and the Northeast region, said training in the river Brahmaputra helped him adapt to the adverse conditions in the expedition.
Sharing his hair-raising experiences of the expedition during a programme – Guest of Gauhati Press Club – here on Monday, Elvis said he had to sell off his car to meet the expenses of the expedition.
“It was definitely one of the best moments of my life. I have been dreaming of this moment for a long time. It feels great that I could bring some laurels for my state,” Elvis said. On July 19, Elvis crossed the English Channel (two-way 78km) from Dover in England to Calais, France, in 31 hours.
Though Elvis had to train with limited resources, he took the opportunity to train in the river Brahmaputra for more than four months. “Starting from the water temperature to current, a swimmer needs to adapt to a lot of things while doing channel swimming. These conditions are extreme. I have been lucky that I could practice in the Brahmaputra. Though the water was not cold here, the underwater current of Brahmaputra is very strong, and it really helped to counter the strong tides in the English Channel,” reckoned Elvis, adding that he could achieve the feat with the blessings of Maa Kamakhya.
Despite unfavorable weather conditions and feeling morally down, he bravely faced the challenges that came his way on July 18 and 19. The weather during the swim was adverse, with heavy rain and a significant drop in temperature.
“Initially, the observer requested me to wait for two hours, and so I started my quest at 3 am. Jellyfish were abundantly present in the water, and the high salinity made my task even more demanding. To add to the difficulties, I had to battle sea sickness and extreme cold,” Elvis recalled.
At one point in time, with growing uncertainty, he almost gave up hope, but his wife motivated him over phone, and with the support of his team, he finally achieved it.
Securing the necessary resources for the expedition was no easy task. Elvis had booked the boat two years in advance, investing Rs 1 lakh. To cover additional costs, he even had to sell off his car, raising Rs 5 lakh. The total expenditure for the venture amounted to Rs 15 lakh, a significant sum for an unforgettable journey.
“Funding has been a major issue. Swimmers from across the globe attempt it. So, it’s difficult to get the slot and the boats. Some individuals have been kind enough to help me, but that was not enough to meet the expenses,” he said.
Elvis is also planning to swim at Robben Island in South Africa and the Molokai Channel in the USA. Previously, Elvis successfully swam across the Catalina Channel from Mexico to the United States in 2019 and the North Channel from Northern Ireland to Scotland in 2022.
Elvis started to participate in swimming competitions at an early age. He was the national champion for ten consecutive years, and he has won a total of 18 international medals, including six gold and seven silver.