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There are probably only half a dozen people on the planet doing marathon swimming at the level of world-record holder Chloë McCardel. This is not without reason.
The Melbourne-born, Sydney-based swimmer battles jellyfish, sharks, second-degree burns, heatstroke and near-drowning – all in a day or two’s work. In the latest episode of Good Weekend Talks, we chat to the 36-year-old about the trials and tribulations – and appeal – of a professional life spent in open water.
“I was an average competitive swimmer. I consider myself fairly unexceptional,” McCardel says. “But with marathon swimming, it’s just as important to have a strong mentality and discipline as it is to have any sort of talent or training ability. I got drawn into working really hard and setting big goals and waking up at 4:30 in the morning because you really want something. And that stayed with me.”
McCardel is the subject of our cover story this week – Jellyfish, sharks, ships: our greatest open-water swimmer’s horror days at the office – written by Good Weekend senior writer Tim Elliott. He joins us on the podcast, too, explaining how he was most captivated by the explanations around how McCardel trains, including how she copes with pain, boredom and the struggle to stay motivated, sometimes literally counting strokes when she gets to a certain level of exhaustion.
“I love all that minutiae and detail about how someone pulls it off – all the stuff that’s behind the curtain,” Elliott says. “You peel back layers and there’s stuff inside this story that you never knew was there. And it just blows your mind.”
Hosting this chat about the woman they call the “Queen of the English Channel” is Good Weekend editor Katrina Strickland, who steers the discussion through looming ships and turning tides and days and nights in 3-degree seas, exploring everything from the agonising pain of a box jellyfish sting to the sweet deliciousness of a hot crumpet with honey in frigid water.
Good Weekend Talks offers readers the chance to delve even deeper each week into Good Weekend’s most intriguing stories, with lively insight from writers, editors and experts. Listen to more episodes by subscribing to Good Weekend Talks wherever you get your podcasts.
For the full feature story, see Saturday’s Good Weekend, or visit The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.
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