Slovenian athlete to swim the full length of the Vltava River

Martin Strel, photo:

The Slovenian marathon swimmer Martin Strel who is known for having swum the length of a number of great rivers started a long swim all the way down the Czech Republic's River Vltava on Friday morning. He set off from South Bohemia at a point close to the river's source, and if everything goes well he will arrive next Thursday at Melnik - about 30 km north of Prague - where the Vltava flows into the Elbe River. Why does he do it? And who is Martin Strel?

Martin Strel who is in his 50's now is a very special marathon swimmer. He does not compete in races against others but prefers to test his endurance by swimming the entire length of various rivers around the world.

According to Igor Vidmar from the Slovenian paper Dolenskij List, Martin's career began with an unfulfilled dream.

"He was a guitar teacher. He started to swim when he was - I think 25 or 30. He wanted to be a world class marathon swimmer but he started too late to be a professional. But he still tried to get to the Guinness' Book of World Records."

And Martin Strel has achieved several records. For swimming the Danube River in 58 days he broke the world long distance swimming record, and he swam the Mississippi in 68 days. Other rivers he has conquered include the Parana in Argentina and the mighty Yangtze in China.

Swimming the Czech River Vltava is definitely not comparable with the wild Parana or Yangtze. But breaking world records is not Martins' only goal. Through his swimming he is also campaigning for cleaner rivers. By swimming the Vltava he says he also wants to strengthen the friendship between Czechs and Slovenians. After all, it fits his life motto: "I swim for peace, friendship and clean water."