A Corbin High School and University of the Cumberlands graduate is part of a team of six American swimmers that will join their French counterparts in a joint relay swim across the English Channel, from Dover to France, to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of U.S. troops in France for World War I.
David Arnold — a physician in neuromuscular medicine who lives in Pickerington, Ohio — is in England this week as part of the American squad. The window to swim the Channel opens June 22 and extends through the 29th. The swim will happen on the first good weather day.
“I’m a little bit worried about he cold,” Arnold said. The water temperature in the Channel fluctuates between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I’ve been training really hard, swimming outside and getting use to the cold water. I’ve been taking cold showers … I’ve swam about a million yards this year. I’ve put in a lot of time. The journey has been fun.”
Arnold is a 1996 graduate of Corbin High School and a 2000 graduate of the University of the Cumberlands with a BS in Biology.
He went to the University of Louisville School of Medicine and is currently a physician and researcher at Ohio State University.
Arnold was a distance runner in high school and college, but was talked into being a walk on with the college swim team by a fellow runner.
“I learned to do flip turns and the different strokes. I liked it,” Arnold said.
He became accomplished at it, swimming in faster lanes with varsity swimmers and even competing with scholarship swimmers.
It was then that Arnold said he first had the idea of swimming the English Channel solo.
This time around will be sort of a trial run.
Following the rules of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, the team will form into two groups of six swimmers who will swim one hour each, in the same order of rotation, from the cliffs of Dover to the French shore. The swimmers may wear only a swimsuit, cap and goggles.
The name of the team is “Over There!” in honor of the popular song written in 1917 shortly after U.S. entry in the war. The swimmers have been training in various locations across Europe and the United States.
It’s 21 miles straight across, but Arnold points out you can’t swim the Channel that way. You actually swim 30 to 35 miles.
“The currents put you into sort of an S shape,” he points out. “It’s really hard to get out into the Channel and hard to get into France on the other side.”
Sometimes, if the tide turns, swimmers can be stuck within a seemingly short distance from shore, but actually swimming in place for a while before it becomes favorable again.
There are few sharks in the Channel, but lots of jellyfish, apparently.
“You are going to get stung,” Arnold said.
He said on a recent trip, he attempted to purposefully get stung by jellyfish to be mentally prepared for it. He said it’s supposed to be like a mild bee sting.
The plan is to make shore near the town of Calais. Arnold said swimmers are only allowed to linger on the beach for a short time before they are required to swim out to their waiting boats to be taken back to England.
“I’m really honored and excited to be asked to do this,” Arnold said.
Arnold is a triathlete who competes regularly. He qualified in January to run in the next Boston Marathon, and has been eating a lot since to gain weight to prepare for the swim.
Arnold was born in Alabama, but his family moved to Tattersall in Corbin when he was four-years-old. He is the son of Beth and Jim Arnold.
Besides training for various physical challenges, Arnold’s career has led him to pre-clinical trials to find cures for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects babies. Those who have the disease die within ten months of age.
Gene replacement therapy he’s helped study has allowed children with the disease to live much longer.
“It’s been really remarkable. We are curing the basis for the disease.” Arnold said. “It almost sounds a little like science fictions, but it isn’t. We have babies that are walking and functioning normally. Some are close to three years of age.”
Arnold said he loves Corbin and remembers fondly his time here.
“My husband Jim and I are proud of our children,” Beth Arnold said. “We are especially blessed.”
If you want to track Arnold’s swim across the English Channel online, you can do so by going to the following link on the Interenet: http://cspf.co.uk/tracking
The boats being used in the endeavor will be “West Winds” and “Gallivant.”