Like an enormous pod of dolphins 1,486 swimmers flailed their way down the Bosphorus in the world’s only swim race that starts in Asia (Kanlica) up by the mouth of the Black Sea and ends 6.5 kilometers later in Europe (Kuruçesme). I was at the finish line to cheer on my friend Nicole Pope, a journalist, who finished 8th in her class. US ambassador Frank Ricciardone and US consul Scott Kilner also made the swim, as did one of Turkey’s richest businessmen, Mustafa Koç, although their bathing bottoms were indistinguishable from those of hundreds of others emerging from the drink. Quite a few swimmers were caught by the treacherous current and sluiced right past the tents at the finish line on the shore and swept under the Bosphorus Bridge. You could see their feeble splashes in the distance as they attempted the almost impossible struggle of swimming back up the Bosphorus against the current. Ships were stopped for the two hours of the race so the swimmers wouldn’t get bonked by a supertanker.
This was the 25th annual race; it was started by the National Olympic Committee of Turkey in 1989 with only 89 swimmers. This year 600 some swimmers were foreigners with a large Russian contingent. The first three swimmers get a medal and the first in each category (by age and sex) get awards as well. It is quite a feat, dodging the waves and the currents and the occasional blob of oil on your goggles. Congratulations to all the daring swimmers.