From Dover to Calais without a ticket

Throughout Gift of Life’s seven-year history in the UK, we’ve seen sports fundraisers in more places than you can shake a stick at–the London Marathon, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Amazon jungle, Mount Elbrus, London to Brighton on foot, and a bike tour across the whole of the UK. Now Gift of Life Patron Pavel Morozov is seeking new horizons for the charity. Before this summer ends, he’s going to swim the English Channel to raise money for the children in Gift of Life’s care, and we’re inviting you to support this challenging, ambitious project.

Pavel, there’s no question that swimming more than 32 km of chilly, turbulent water from Dover to Calais isn’t going to be a walk in the park. How did you decide to take on such a challenge?

When I was young, I was a serious swimmer – I even took part in the Russia Championship a couple of times. Then I took a long break. It was only last summer that I decided to get back to regular training and pick a target to aim for. Two years ago, my friends and I completed the 5 km “Monte Cristo: Escape from Château d'If” challenge with flippers. After that came a small triathlon and a one-mile swim in Hyde Park. It was then that we finally found the big target we’d been looking for: the English Channel.

Originally, we were planning to make it a relay race with 5-10 km sections. But then it occurred to me that if I really wanted to challenge myself, I should go the whole hog myself. So I began preparing for a 21-mile swim. This May, just when I’d made up my mind to go for it, I found out that I either had to apply a year in advance or wait for a registered swimmer to pull out. I finally got myself a slot in late July and, though I wouldn’t have minded another couple of months to train, I decided not to put it off any longer.

Getting ready for the big swim

Do you have a special training programme?

Last summer, I met the famous Shaolin master Yan Lei in London, and he gave me some endurance training. The key to building confidence in your abilities is to show yourself no mercy. I spent the year doing harsh daily CrossFit training with elements of boxing and kung fu. Of course, there were blips, the year being what it was. Celebro Media, where I work, was entering the American market – the competition was ruthless, and the demand for our services wasn’t great either. But it was precisely the demanding physical exercise that helped me cope with the stress and fight back against cosmic entropy. On the whole, I’d picked the right tactic, and on June 30, 2018, I took a test swim of 10 km in open waters in Greece, by the village of Limeni in the picturesque Mani peninsula.

A training session with Yan Lei

When’s the big day?

The English Channel is a fickle place, and a lot depends on the weather. We’re aiming to start during the window between 27 July and 1 August 2018. It’ll be my first time coming to France as a fare-dodger (though I’m sure they’ll check my Schengen visa before I set off).

Who’s going to support you during your journey?

The boat shadowing me will have the captain, a doctor and my wife. At first, Yulya couldn’t get her head around the idea of somebody of sound mind willingly swimming that distance. But she knows that however strong the siren call of adventure, I’m not going to take any unnecessary risks, so right now she and the kids are behind me all the way. The kids even join me in training every now and then!

Does love of sports run in the family?

My parents are professional athletes, masters of their art. My mum was the USSR rowing champion, while my dad was the Russian Federation kayaking champion. These last few years, he’s been giving a good showing as a veteran at the World and European Cups. One of my fondest childhood memories is training with him. I hope I can get my children into sports the same way.

The Champion Father poster to cheer Pavel up after the Serpentine swim 

Are you setting yourself a goal beyond the sport? Are you going to start a fundraising campaign for Gift of Life as one of its patrons?

I’m glad to be able to swim not just as an athlete but as a patron of Gift of Life. I’m counting on the support of those who consider themselves friends of the charity, as well as those who are simply willing to help out people in need. And for some, my story might be the inspiration they need to overcome their own challenges. I’ve heard of cancer patients who set themselves the goal of crossing the Channel when they got better, and in the end, they managed to do that very thing. I’d like to thank everyone for caring, and for making donations to help the children who need our support so they can get better and start setting themselves new goals.