Abhejali Bernardova (39), a member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team from Zlin, Czech Republic, completed the famous crossing of the strait between Robben Island and Cape Town in South Africa on 12 March 2016. Abhejali became the first Czech person to cross the strait, taking 2h 35 minutes to cross a distance of 7.5 km at a water temperature of only 9-11° C.
The first swim from Robben Island to the mainland to Cape Town was completed by South African Henry Hooper in 1909 in a time of 6h 55min. Robben Island is famous for being the site of the apartheid-era prison of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former South African President Nelson Mandela, and current President Jacob Zuma.
According to Abhejali: "The water was really very cold, I was hoping for a temperature of 13° C. Nine degrees is really low (The English Channel has a temperature of 15 to 18 degrees), we were worried that I could contract hypothermia. After about an hour, I was not sure I could endure it. But I thought that if Nelson Mandela could endure so much, then I could handle this swim. During the swim, I had to occasionally repeat my phone number - if I could not do it, it would mean hypothermia."
"President Mandela for me was always a great inspiration. His dream of a free society is still alive and we need to commemorate it and work for its fulfillment. His ability to forgive his captors and cooperate with all to build an equal society is incredible. Our world needs more people like Nelson Mandela."
Abhejali is also currently the only Czech person to complete the triple crown of long-distance swimming (crossing the English Channel, the Catalina Channel in California, and the round trip of Manhattan Island). In addition, she has also swum the Gibraltar Strait and completed a six-day ultradistance race in New York with a total of 616 km.
In addition to the physical training, Abhejali also meditates, which helps her to maintain her endurance capacities and concentration to overcome physical and mental fatigue and pain, as well as a way to work on herself and be a better person.
(This article is an English translation of this report on the Czech Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team site)