Eleven-year-old conquers Cook Strait

23 February 2005

In a choppy southerly with waves two metres high, 11-year-old Aditya Raut has become the youngest person to swim Cook Strait.


Monday's record swim was kept under wraps because organisers were concerned the 43-kilogram boy, who travelled from Pune in India for the swim, might not make the distance.


COOK STRAIT CONQUEROR: Aditya Raut, 11, has become the youngest person to swim Cook Strait.

MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post

Wellington-based swim coordinator Philip Rush who has watched over most Strait swims said Aditya showed great determination in tough conditions.

"His parents were sick the whole way across (in the support boat).

"A lot of people would have pulled out. It was a calculated risk with the weather, but it paid off."

Aditya swam the 26 kilometres from north to south Ohau Pt to Cape Koamaru in nine hours and nine minutes.

Allowing for tides, he covered about 40km. Till Monday, 13-year-old Upper Hutt schoolboy John Gatfield was the youngest Cook Strait swimmer.

Aditya, who took up swimming when he was 6 after physiotherapy for a broken leg, spent yesterday recuperating and eating his mother's potato curry soup.

During the swim he had just one goal: "I think about just doing it and how fast I can go."

Rush said it was a tough decision whether to allow the swim to go ahead.

Safety was paramount: "My decision was final if we had to pull him out, and I would only be prepared to push him to about 80 per cent of his capability.

"It was his determination and the way he attacked it."

Olympic sports psychologist Gary Hermansson said Aditya had a unique ability, being able to handle such an arduous swim. "An older person might be able to hang in there, but a youngster would be in much more need of support."

The risk of psychological damage, which can result from such tough events, had been considered, Rush said.

But this is not Aditya's first long-distance swim. His father, Santosh Raut, said he had also swum 71km in the Indian Ocean and coach Vinay Marathe said he aimed to swim the world's seven seas. Aditya trained between two and 12 hours a day in the lead-up to the event.

Cook Strait was chosen because it was one of the toughest, his father said. "It (the crossing) was very horrible, very rough and windy. I've never seen such sea before. If I had seen it before, I might have made the decision not to go."