Stephen's Scribble

It’s wonderful to feel inspired. It gives us that extra zest for life. Albeit trying something new or re-inventing the way we already do something, inspiration adds flavour, colour and motivation to our existence. Inspiration comes in many forms and we are all inspired in different ways. Albeit a new idea, the wonders of nature, watching X Factor, an oil painting, a beautiful piece of music, an architecturally designed home or following a person on social media …. inspiration is at our fingertips all the time.

Recently, Dr Otto Thaning from Cape Town completed yet another Robben Island swim. A serious accomplishment for any endurance swimmer. What sets Otto apart is he’s 80 years old! Otto also holds the record for the oldest person (at 73) to have swum across the English Channel. I met him in 2018 in Dover where he was attempting to break his own record. Sadly the weather conditions weren’t favourable and Otto lost his window of opportunity, but that didn’t seem to phase him too much. As a retired heart surgeon Otto also worked with Dr Chris Barnard back in the day. His life story is absolutely fascinating yet when you meet him, he comes across as a vibrant, energetic every day sort of person. No air and graces yet when you look at the sparkle in his eyes you know that he has wonderful insight on life and how to lead it to the full.

Otto & LewisLewis Pugh another hugely inspirational character was on board the pilot boat while Otto did the swim. It took Otto 2Hrs52min. The water was 16 degrees centigrade. He was wearing a speedo, swimming cap and goggles. Think about that for second. The water locally has been cold lately, a pretty similar temperature actually. How on earth can an eighty year old man endure such cold while swimming a marathon!? It boggles the mind. I caught up with Lewis (The human Polar bear) about that experience and what it was like to witness one of his hero’s complete this epic swim.

“You know Stephen, your bodies thermostat doesn’t actually work so well once you get passed 75”, he started. “When you have a Father figure and friend that is in agony, on the verge of hypothermia and on the edge, it can get emotional. I had to remain completely calm. My job was to give feedback on water temperature, distance to go, motivate on how well he was doing and never ever lose sight of the end goal. I knew he had trained well and what what he is capable of mentally. He was very very cold …. but there was never any doubt”

On completion of the swim, (over a lovely warm drink no doubt) Lewis asked Otto what his secrets were to longevity and living such an incredibly active life. The good Doctor shared 4 of his secrets.

1. Genetics. Otto acknowledges being blessed to have be born with good genes. It’s a bit like drawing a strong card at birth.

2. Nutrition. Otto has followed a healthy well balanced diet his entire life and never been entrapped by any of the vices that are ever present in modern day society.

3. Exercise. Get the blood pumping four times a week says Otto. Learn how to push the boundaries without injury. Love being in your body.

4. Mental Health. Stress is not good but it exists. It can be reinvented through a positive healthy mindset. There are a multitude of different ways to nurture our minds. Make that part of your daily routine.

Stephen PraetoriousHaving put down the phone to Lewis, I took a moment to reflect on some of the people in my life that have inspired me. The list is enormous. In fact I was so inspired by how many inspiring people exist in my life that I feel inspired to share more inspiring stories. What better place to start than right here in St Francis where so many incredible people live. If you have an inspiring story or know of that special somebody who has inspired you, leave a comment …. these sorts of stories are so worth sharing.

Article by Stephen Praetorious