Tsanko is ready for Seychelles’ warm waters! |07 May 2021
Last week, it was announced that Seychelles is to attract international eyes on the open water scene.
Bulgarian swimming celebrity and champion Tsanko Tsankov aims to become the first international athlete to swim between Mahé and La Digue in October this year, which will make Seychelles the first country to host a world record in the Indian Ocean region, recognised by the Fédération internationale de natation (Fina).
Local journalist Antoine Laporte caught up with the multiple champion and record holder and some of the organisers in exclusive interviews, and he also brings you some more background information on Tsankov and the general preparation for the long-awaited event.
Mariana Atherton, founder and chief executive (CEO) of TourBookers, said in an interview that she and Tsanko Tsankov had previously met during the Mrs Burgas Gala event thanks to the main organiser, Media Group in Bulgaria in 2020.
She was already doing business in Seychelles with TourBookers, a German-based digital tour booking platform (www.tourbookers.com), with presence in the market since 2017. She detailed: “I adore the beauty of the nature, beaches and marine life there (Seychelles) and have also been very fascinated by the world records of Tsanko. So naturally, these two topics connected easily in my mind and Mervin Cedras (CEO of TourBookers Seychelles) and I proposed that he should attempt a new world record in the Seychelles!”
Mr Tsankov confirms that this would be his first travel, and thus, first swim in the Indian Ocean region. So far, he has swum in open water competitions in the Black Sea, the Adriatic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Marmara Sea (Turkey).
Ms Atherton, through her business having already cemented contacts locally, and with the help of Mr Cedras and Oliver Bastienne, chairman of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), offered to open the doors for Tsankov.
“For TourBookers and SCCI, this was the perfect opportunity to bring together sports and culture. These activities make up for most of the tours and bookings on our TourBookers platform, and we already knew of the great resources that Seychelles has to offer in these categories. Moreover, a world record in open sea swimming in the Indian Ocean is one of the most honest and credible ways to draw attention to the protection of marine life,” she stated.
In terms of sparking the initiative, Mr Bastienne expressed, “Knowing how much our tour provider partners and the tourism industry have been suffering from the travel bans of Covid-19, we thought the world record event might be the perfect opportunity to spark tourism again and thus, support Seychelles in opening up the country’s tourism sector and boosting the economy. That’s why TourBookers and SCCI have been involving the relevant governmental and tourism authorities right from the beginning. Since then, we have been working closely with the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB), the Ministry for Youth, Sports and Family, the National Sports Council, the Seychelles Swimming Association, the municipality of Burgas in Bulgaria and the media group from Bulgaria.”
Before coming to Seychelles, the swimming star of Bulgaria will be heading to the Strait of Gibraltar, which is situated between Spain and Morocco.
He expressed: “It’s one of the most prestigious international open water swimming competitions, and one of the toughest as this is where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the warmer Mediterranean waters mixing with the cold Atlantic waters, this results in the largest temperature shift in the world.”
Only 24 finalist competitors will have the opportunity to cross the strait.
Ms Atherton said that the proposition for Seychelles as the destination stems from her long-lasting personal and professional relationship with the destination. Additionally, she alluded to a great collaboration with the STB, especially with Sherin Francis, the newly appointed principal secretary (PS) for tourism, who (Atherton) draws inspiration from.
She noted that “for Tsanko, it was also very appealing, because it will be the first world record attempt in the Indian Ocean and the distance between Mahé and La Digue is just a perfect one for him to swim.”
As for the event planned for Seychelles, this would result indeed in a world record as nothing like this has ever been done before in the entire history of swimming, noted Tsankov.
The swim will be according to Fina rules and regulations for open water swimming, and Tsankov explained that “in the accompanying boats, we will have an international judge, accredited by Fina who will certify the swim. Fina rules require that swimming needs to start on land and end on land. During the whole swim, I am not allowed to use swimming aid (fins, boards or other equipment). Also, I am not allowed to touch the boat, another person, or be touched by another person. There are also requirements for equipment, especially the swimsuit, which need to be approved by Fina.”
SCCI chairman Bastienne noted that there are many partners involved in the competitive event, and among them are TourBookers and SCCI, the initiators, event partners and co-organisers of the world record event. “At the moment, the world record attempt is still in its very initial phase where questions of funding need to be solved in order to guarantee the realisation of this great initiative.”
One of the main goals of the swim between Mahé and La Digue is to promote open water swimming as a sport in Seychelles and possibly elsewhere.
In the interview, Mr Tsankov says that in Bulgaria, it is already well-embraced, in fact the European country is one of the top countries in the world for developing this sport. Bulgaria boasts several world champions in open water swimming and is home to a number of world records, one of which is held by Tsanko himself, since last year.
The additional benefit for Seychelles would simply be the promotion of the destination as a sports and cultural destination the world over, adds Mr Tsankov.
Mr Tsanko has in the past swum 46,800 metres across the Burgas Gulf, and was asked how the swim between Mahé and La Digue will be different for him.
Regarding that feat in the Burgas Gulf, he detailed that it was a swim in open seas for 14 hours, 24 minutes and 34 seconds non-stop. He proudly added: “This became part of Bulgarian history, and actually the wetsuit I wore is now displayed in the Bulgarian History Museum. Where I was swimming was about 17 to 20 km from the coastline.”
He added that each open water swim is different. Firstly, the difference between the swims is that the length between the two islands is considerably long, also, the ocean has stronger currents when compared to the sea.
In terms of preparation for the Indian Ocean event, the athlete stresses that physical and mental endurance are extremely important for such a swimming marathon. “I prepare every day during my workouts in the pool, I spend about four hours a day in the pool and weekly, I swim an average of about 70 to 80 kilometres. Now, in preparation I’m going to swim about 100 kilometres a week. So, the physical and mental endurance, these are worked on every day in my training sessions. Until now, I have swum about 46,000 kilometres, and in that light, I am ready!” he stated.
One of Mr Tsankov’s objectives is to dedicate this new world record to raise awareness for the sustainable protection of the corals and the sea life in Seychelles.
Asked if he thinks Bulgaria and other neighbouring countries are on the right track to upholding sustainable protection of its marine life and sea, Mr Tsanko replied: “We chose this topic to raise awareness for the sustainable protection of sea life in Seychelles, because I know this is an important thing for the country. I believe that it is important to tackle this. Since we are part of the EU (European Union), I believe that Bulgaria, as well as our neighbours, Romania and Turkey, are on the right track.”
As the interview drew to a close, Mr Tsanko noted that although most of his swimming career has been in the pool, and that he loves swimming and competing there, swimming in the sea, the ocean or a lake makes him feel freer and closer to nature, and he prefers this.
Mr Cedras, CEO of TourBookers Seychelles, talked about the event attracting more tourists to the highly-sought-out destination, stating “the event will be a first and big step in putting Seychelles on the radar of sports and activity-loving tourists all over the world – a new target group besides the ‘classical’ luxury and family tourism groups.
This fits perfectly in line with the vision of our Sports Minister Marie-Celine Zialor, “the fusion of sport and culture” and to bring this type of tourism in our country. Being an international sport and a Bulgarian celebrity at the same time, Tsanko’s media presence both in international sports media and in Bulgaria itself will help to promote Seychelles strongly. In addition to that, TourBookers will be offering tours to follow the world record event live and online, together with the huge variety of sports and cultural tours offered on our platform. Tourists will be able to experience the beauty of Seychelles in a uniquely private setting.
“These tours among the world record attempt will be exclusively available and bookable on tourbookers.com. Together with the reach of the overseas STB offices, we can target a huge portion of the worldwide tourism sector and that will lead to more tourists visiting Seychelles in the long run.”
Mr Bastienne confirmed that considering the fact that people from three different countries ‒Seychelles, Bulgaria and Germany ‒ and time zones are working together intensively and fully remotely, the preparation and organisation is going fantastic so far.
“That’s why, TourBookers and SCCI would like to use this opportunity today to thank everybody involved for their great commitment. Nevertheless, it’s still a long way to go! The biggest challenge is the uncertainty how Covid will develop until October. This leads to different scenarios for the event planning depending on what will be possible by then. But we want to remain in our positive spirit and hope for the best!”
Mr Cedras concluded the interview by mentioning TourBookers’ preparation for another big event that will hopefully take place next year, and he has asked everyone to stay tuned.
Contributed by ACAL Services