Man tries to swim from France to U.S. after catching Olympic fever

The Londoner didn't make it very far before having to be rescued with the assistance of a helicopter

Olympic athletes can make competing in their events look simple. But one man found out swimming definitely isn't as easy as Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps or Julia Wilkinson make it seem.

A 34-year-old, unnamed London man was apparently so gripped by Olympic fever that he decided to swim from Biarritz, France to New York.

The man told his friends while they were on vacation in the beach town that he was going to deliver some Olympic spirit across the Atlantic and jumped in the water, according to the Daily Mail.

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His friends thought he was joking, but because he was a strong swimmer they let him go. Even if he was a strong swimmer, he hadn't trained and set out without any equipment, according to Gapyear.

He swam out past the 300-metre buoys which marked the end of the legal swimming area and kept going. But he didn't make anywhere near America.

Because he was out of sight, the lifeguards had to call in a helicopter to find him. A diver dropped into the sea and explained it probably was a bad idea to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. But the man said he was a strong swimmer and felt up to it. A rescue dinghy arrived around the same time and brought the man back to shore.

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"He was a bit naive," said Laurent Saintespes, senior officer at Biarritz airbase to AFP. "But at a time when the Olympics are taking place in London you have to see the funny side of things."

If he swam in a direct line it would be about 5,800 km. That's more than 25 times the longest distance ever swum unassisted in open water and 580 times longer than the longest Olympic swimming event. The longest open water swim was set by Veljko Rogosic when he swam across the Adriatic Sea.

However, someone has swum across the Atlantic Ocean, but it was assisted. Benoit Lecomte did it in 1998 to raise money for cancer and completed it with wetsuits, an electromagnetic field to ward off sharks and a 13-metre long support boat. He swam for eight hours a day and would rest and eat on the boat when not swimming. It was a good thing he had the shark fence, because a great white shark followed him for five days of his 73-day journey.