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Dantesque crossing of three French swimmers highlights the pollution of Lake Titicaca

« Several times, I thought we were going to spend it », blurted Theo Curin, happy and relieved to have made it back to dry land. At 21, the young quad amputee swimmer and vice-champion of the disabled world has just achieved a feat as impressive as it is unprecedented: an unassisted crossing, in total autonomy, of the largest freshwater lake in South America. The highest too, at an altitude of 3,800 meters.

With her comrades, swimmer Malia Metella, Olympic vice-champion, and Matthieu Witvoet, who defines himself as an “eco-adventurer”, they swam for ten days in cold waters of barely 10 ° C, towing a boat. completely eco-designed, on which they slept and ate. 120 kilometers of crossing – three times more than that of the English Channel – between Copacabana, in Bolivia, and the bay of Puno, in Peru.

For ten days, they had to face all the elements: “ Nothing happened as we had imagined ”, says Anne Bayard, director of the project and Théo Curin’s agent, by phone. Storms, hail, thunderstorms: “They had apocalyptic weather conditions! « , she confides. The crossing turned into an odyssey: “They spent a whole night without sleeping in their life jackets, then had to face a storm where they found themselves with two inches of ice on their raft. « 

A year of training in the Pyrenees

Despite this hostile environment and several phases of discouragement, the trio did not waver. A challenge for Théo Curin in particular, amputated at the age of 6, after a lightning meningitis:

 » I want to give this message that anything can happen to us in life, but we have to believe in our dreams. My first dream was to become a Paralympic champion, but I had to give up my career because I was facing inequalities, I was swimming against guys who had both hands. So I set myself this other challenge. « 

The three athletes trained for more than a year, especially in Lake Matemale (Pyrénées-Orientales), in close to real conditions, with cold bathing sessions and intense swimming at altitude. Because on Lake Titicaca, at 3,800 meters, the air is thinner and the effort all the more difficult.

Beyond the sporting feat, the athletes wish to carry a message on the environment so that their adventure can be used for the media coverage of Titicaca, which has been facing major pollution for several years. On its shores proliferates an enormous mantle of green algae. For local communities, who live mainly from fishing and agriculture, pollution has disastrous consequences. Many of them have had to give up their traditional activities and retrain.

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