Channel Swimmers

PJ Thum

First Swimmer From Singapore



Swimmer Ping Tjin (PJ) Thum
Age 25
Country Singapore
Date of Swim 6th August 2005
Start Time 08:55
Swim Time 12 hours 24 minutes
Starting Point Shakespeare Beach, England
Finish Wissant, France
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Monitoring Body Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation
Official Observer Dave Benny
Pilot (Boat) Dave Whyte (Ocean Breeze)
Club Singapore Swimming Association National Centre of Excellence
Coach John Dempsey (Singapore), Freda Streeter (Dover)
Crew Colin, Will, Mairin Hennerbry, Nick Thomas

Before his Channel swim, Ping Tjin already had a significant background in swimming - he had represented Singapore in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics - 100 and 200 m Fly, 4x100 m Medley Relay, 4x100 and 4x200 m Free Relays. His Channel attempt had been postponed several times because of bad weather, and his story below details the conditions he encountered.

Often described as brilliant by his academic colleagues, Ping Tjin Thum completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard, BA cum laude in East Asian Studies. Prior to his Channel swim, PJ, as he is known to his friends, was Singapore's 21st Rhodes scholar, studying for his second BA, Modern History and Politics, at Oxford University. At that time he was also Captain of the Oxford University Swimming Team. In October, he returns to Oxford to commence reading for a PhD in Modern History.

To become acclimatized to the water temperatures, he trained in Dover harbour for two months before his successful swim. He had also swam in the Oxford cross-Channel relay of 2004, and a 3-man relay that he completed just 9 days before his solo.

PJ's swim sought to raise funds for two charities - The Methodist School Foundation (who sponsored his swim), and the Action for Aids Singapore.

The swim in PJ's words:

Now that I've recovered (somewhat) from my swim I just want to write and thank all of you. From the very beginning I was made to feel welcome here in this group and even more so when I showed up in Dover, having flown alone all the way from Singapore in pursuit of the dream we all share. It is simply awesome - and I mean it in the proper sense of the word, the sense of reverence before God - to think about how such different and disparate people can form such a deep and profound sense of community. I'd like to think that each and every one of us, just by aspiring towards our shared dream, helps to lift the human spirit and ennobles our race, the human race, just a little bit more, lifting it out of the drudgery and depths to which we can sometimes collectively sink. It is truly marvellous.
I also want to observe two great forces:
The first is Mother Nature: I went into my swim confident and, in retrospect, a little cocky, feeling sure I'd make it across in under 10 hours (this was based on my training speed in the harbour). I was easily holding my ten hour pace until we hit some extremely rough weather about 3 hours in. The waves came crashing down on me and tossed me about like the insignificant speck that I was. Such is the power of mother nature as a great leveller. No matter who we are or how great we are, we are all helpless before the great forces of nature.

The second force, however, is the human spirit, and once mother nature had stripped me bare of pride and pretension, all I had left was my determination and will to carry on and prevail. I realised I could not defeat the terrible force of nature, only hold on and keep slowly moving forward until such a time as the fickle and capricious weather left me alone. Eventually the water improved and I was able to slowly and exhaustedly carry on. Thus is the second lesson of my crossing: that the human spirit in its purest and humblest form is equal to anything in this world. Having met all of you, seen what I've seen and experienced what I've experience, I cannot help but believe that anything can be achieved if we strip away all our vanity and apply ourselves with great humility to our goals.
Thank you all again for helping me achieve my own foolish and yet modest dream.
With much respect, P.J. Thum

Check out PJ's own web page for more details.

Then check out PJ's web page for Fred Astaire . . .

Created: 9th August 2005
Last Updated: 5th June 2007