James Christie is creative and colorful, inventive and insouciant. A former pool sprinter from Trenton, Michigan, he has also enjoyed open water swimming since his early days.
At his fourth Tampa Bay Frogman Swim today, Christie thought it was time to do something different. So he headed backwards. He completed the entire 3.1-mile (5 km) charity swim doing backstroke and joined 160 other swimmers who raised over US$300,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
“I have been training for this (5 km) swim by doing backstroke in workout. My kayaker was behind me off to the side,” he explained about his unprecedented means to cross Tampa Bay. One hour 31 minutes after starting, his smile was as broad as his shoulders.
Even going backwards, Christie was spot on.
“My kayaker was behind me off to the side. He’s a great navigator. He’s been my paddleman all four years and I really trust his knowledge of the tides and conditions. Woody Brown, the mayor of Largo, grew up fishing from kayaks and is a true waterman at heart so he brings great instincts to the mix.
I always feel I swim one of the shorter routes through the course each year and that’s all him. It’s never been more important than a day when I swam relatively blind all day.
Backstroke is the only discipline in all of sports, that I know of, where you are disqualified for looking where you are going. I love that intuitive nature of the stroke and have been good at it since I was four. I won a gold and a silver medal in the 35-39 year old age group at the 2005 World Masters Games in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in the 50 and 100 backstroke, respectively. Since then I’ve moved my focus and training over to open water swimming.
I truly love the sport and feel great that I’ve inspired my children (14-year-old Owen 11-year-old Zaedee and 9-year-old Marlee) to consider adding it to their pool swimming activities. I’m a fortunate man.”
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