Return of the King of the Channel

VETERAN long-distance swimmer Mike Read is celebrating after seizing back his title as the undisputed King of the Channel.The champion swimmer crossed the Channel for the 33rd time in 15 hours and 29 minutes to break the world record for the most successful crossings.

VETERAN long-distance swimmer Mike Read is celebrating after seizing back his title as the undisputed King of the Channel.

The champion swimmer crossed the Channel for the 33rd time in 15 hours and 29 minutes to break the world record for the most successful crossings.

The 63-year-old from Sproughton is now the second oldest Briton to complete the swim.

He told The Evening Star that he was feeling the effects of his latest achievement on Tuesday.

He said: "I ache, my mouth hurts, my intestines hurt, everything hurts.

"It was very cold. It was 15-and-a-half hours of hell."

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The grandfather-of-two has now regained the Letona Trophy, the award issued by the Channel Swimming Association to each new record holder, after losing it to his rival Kevin Murphy in 2000.

He had held the King of the Channel title from 1979 and had completed 31 swims and set 18 world records.

Duncan Taylor, the secretary of the Channel Swimming Association and the pilot for Tuesday's swim, said Mr Read's latest crossing was incredible given his age and the unseasonally cold water temperature of 16 degrees Celsius.

Mr Taylor said: "It was a magic swim. He's totally dedicated. He's a top athlete.

"As a pilot he is a dream to swim with because he's so disciplined and steady in everything he does.

"The trophy is now his. He has nothing more to prove.

"To have been the King of the Channel for so long and then to come back and take it back from a young man he has achieved everything."

The grandfather-of-two, who was a member of Great Britain's swimming squad for the 1960 Rome Olympics, first swam the Channel in 1969 and has proved almost unstoppable ever since.

In 1979, when he was crowned King for the first time, he made nine attempts and successfully crossed the channel six times, including three crossings in an eight day period.

An asthma sufferer, who was struck down with polio as a child, he puts his success down to "mind over matter" and he said the latest swim was prompted by a need to seize the crown back.

He said: "I'd grown attached to the title."

Even though Mr Read has the title back he has no plans to hang up the goggles.

Mr Read: "I might be tempted to do another one when I'm 68, then I'd be the oldest person in the world."

And his advice to Kevin Murphy, the Harrow-based swimmer whose crown he took on Tuesday?

"It's a huge physical effort, my advice to him would be not to bother," he joked.

n. What do you think of Mr Read's efforts? Write to us at Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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