Three years of preparation, 13 hours of swimming, and one significant accomplishment

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Olivia Lavin was overcome with emotion as she approached the shore of Cap Blanc-Nez beach in France, where a cheering mob met her. She’d just completed a swim across the English Channel, the body of water that separates the United Kingdom and France. She swam 45 kilometers in 13 and a half hours, with 10 hours of that time spent in darkness. She had trained for two years for this.

Olivia had always enjoyed swimming as a child, and she continued to swim regularly until she was about 16 years old. But, after joining Google Dublin in 2017, she rekindled her interest in the sport. “I was amazed to see a pool in the office,” she continues. “I wanted to get the most out of it.” Olivia enrolled in coaching sessions and began competing. She pushed herself to swim longer and longer distances to see how far she could go.

After a year, she decided to take on the ultimate long-distance swimming challenge: crossing the English Channel.

Olivia began by locating a boat captain who was certified to transport swimmers over the channel and sign up for a two-year waiting. She then completed a six-hour qualifying swim in a water cooler than 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). She swam five days per week. For the two years she was preceding up to the event, she was often swimming for eight hours straight to increase her speed and stamina. She moved to Singapore after a year of training, where the hot weather made it difficult to duplicate the freezing conditions of the English Channel; she used cold showers and ice baths to prepare her body for the cold.

As if it wasn’t difficult enough, the COVID-19 outbreak made the training even more difficult. She couldn’t swim for three months. Others who were unable to train due to COVID constraints could only complete the large swim around a third of the time. But if she postponed her swim, she’d have to wait until 2022 to do it, and Her efforts would have been futile. She explains, “I couldn’t afford to put another two years of my life on hold.” So she persisted, and the Channel Swimming Association granted her permission to swim across the English Channel.

Olivia was one of 680 women who completed the swim after years of hard work. “I was in a state of bliss,” she explains. “I hope that by sharing my story, others will be motivated to pursue their dreams!”

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