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Is This Australia’s Toughest Swimmer? She’s No Darling of the Pool


At the risk of offending a significant few, or even more, I’ve always had a question mark beside the breed collectively defined as “elite swimmers”.

I should point immediately, I have nothing but pure admiration for their work ethic, discipline and dedication. They are amazing athletes. But all that time immersed – head underwater, staring at a black line, waiting impatiently for a wall, nothing else to do or see, nobody to talk to…  all a bit weird for mine.
And then of course there’s the next dimension – the marathon swimmer. As my mate Pencil says, “clearly only one or two genes short of a serial killer”.  “Hey I’ve got an idea – let’s swim from Cuba to Florida  – through the schools of sharks and Box Jelly fish. At night. Without a cage”. I reckon Pencil, we go with one gene short of a serial killer.
She’s all about asking questions – impossibly hard questions of herself, and working out the answers.
But then I met Chloë. Chloë McCardel. I’m guessing you’ve never heard of her –  from Melbourne, tall, blonde, tanned, personable, articulate. Not to mention tough, really tough. In amongst other rare feats, she holds the World Record for the longest unassisted ocean swim – 124km from the southern extreme of the Bahamas, up, through, down, across to Nassau in 2014.
As a country, we should be more aware of Chloë’s achievements, but what… with all that’s going on with the Kardashians and Warnie and Fev in the jungle, it’s hard to stay across everything. The other mitigating factor I suppose – what Chloë does, where she does it, and how long it takes her, isn’t really cut out for grandstand seating, or our obsession with “the 30 second sound bite”. She’s more two-part documentary material. Character, as distinct from personality.
Chloe English Channel
Last year, in among her other adventures, Chloë swam across the English Channel – not one once or twice, but three times. Consecutively.  Dover – Cap Gris Nez, Cap Griz Nez – Dover, Dover – Cap Griz Nez. 115km, 130,000 strokes, punctuated only by a couple of tired salty, sandy, tumble-turns.  She wasn’t the first woman to achieve a Channel triple crossing –  an English serial killer did it in 1990, but that doesn’t phase the 30-year-old.
In among her other adventures, Chloë swam across the English Channel – not one once or twice, but three times.
She’s all about asking questions – impossibly hard questions of herself, and working out the answers. Sometimes it takes two, even three goes to get it right. But when she falls short of the goal, in her mind, she’s not failing – she’s  just practicing resilience. Failing? – that giving up, not going again.
Her whole of life philosophy is built around a “growth mindset” – principally the work of celebrated American pyschologist Carol Dweck. “American” and “Pyschologist” – there’s two words that together, scare the living daylights out of me – but Dweck makes a lot of sense. She delineates between two distinct thinking styles – the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
Chloe message
Fixed mindset individuals believe that you are who you are, you have what you have, you can only do what you can do. Growth mindset?  Clear the decks, people. They’re coming on through.
Implicit in their thinking – the words “not yet”.  They are being used to very good effect in some schools in Chicago – students are no longer listed as failing, they just haven’t passed. At least …Not yet.  A bit like Chloe, they are practicing resilience, while working out a different answer to the exam question. They are being gradually drawn to the next level.
Chloë’s “next level” at least in 2016 is surpassing Des Renford’s record for the most number of Channel crossings by an Australian – 19.  Funny isn’t it – we’ve all heard of Renford, and Susie Maroney – but I guess they were smearing themselves in pig fat and ploughing across the Channel, well before the Kardashians were even born. Warnie was probably still courting Simone.
On the upside, Chloë’s not chasing fame. A few more corporate partners – sure – to help her reach her goals, and stretch herself even further, but fame and notoriety aren’t on her radar.
Who knows, sometime in the future, with the right sort of backing and support, she may even attempt a quadruple crossing.
She hasn’t quite worked that one out.
Not yet.
Michael Blucher is the author of Bubble Boys and The Whistle

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