Prerov swimmer pursues dream to "conquer" Lake Titicaca

In the east Moravian town of Prerov it must be a curious sight: amateur swimmer Pavel Poljansky walking around town in a t-shirt and shorts in chilly temperatures and training daily in the "freezing" Becva River. Why is he doing it? All in preparation to become the first European to swim across the world's highest lake, Lake Titicaca.

Twenty-eight-year-old swimmer Pavel Poljansky knows a thing or to two about making sacrifices. Currently the long-distance swimmer, who holds medals in winter swimming events in Russia, has been swimming ten to twelve kilometres a day in the pool, and swimming outside in the local Becva River to prepare him for his goal of becoming the first European to conquer the famous Lake Titicaca, almost 4,000 metres above sea level. The swimmer has gone as far as renting out his flat to raise additional funds, and when I spoke with him it was by phone to the local gym in Prerov, which has been letting him sleep on a gym mat. Pavel Poljanksy told me what preparing for his goal had been like:

"In my sport it's of course not enough to be a good long-distance swimmer: you also have to have training to endure cold conditions. For me that means not just training on the bike, with weights, and in the pool, but also swimming outside in the Becva: 650 metres a day, not more, because that would be dangerous. In addition, I also walk around town in shorts and a t-shirt to get used to the cold, although I try to use less travelled roads so as to not irritate anyone in their fur coat! Lake Titicaca will be tough, so I have to be ready!"

Poljanksky came up with the idea of conquering Lake Titicaca - the highest lake in the world on the borders of Peru and Bolivia - as a first step towards his eventual goal of one day tackling the English Channel. He plans to swim Lake Titicaca in early April.

"My route will be forty kilometres long and I expect that the water temperature will be around 17 degrees Celsius. I will swim from a peninsula from the village of Sampaya and head north towards Ancoraimes. I can expect to be in the water anywhere from fifteen to twenty hours. You can be sure that I will feel it!

"But swimming is a feeling of freedom you'll never experience just on the street or on your bike. Water is an unbelievable element: you're constantly in fear, fighting your physical limits and testing yourself against it. But the result is very liberating. That's how I'd describe it."

Pavel Poljansky admits that kipping down on the gym mat for "the time being" is unusual but he hopes that when he returns home - not just to the Czech Republic but to his own bed - he will have been "victorious". After that, he hopes to head to compete in Russia in May, where, he told me, he will propose to his "manager" girlfriend on Moscow's Red Square.