Photos by Janelle Van Ruiten
When Christine Thompson asked her identical twin sister Claire if she wanted to swim the Ocean Seven, “it took her three seconds to say yes,” Christine smiles. The Ocean Seven is a series of seven marathon swims across the planet consisting of the most demanding and dangerous channel crossings including the English Channel and the Strait of Gibraltar. The swims range from 16km (10 miles) to 44km (27 miles) and only 21 people have every completed the full challenge.
For Christine and Claire, who grew up swimming and now run a swim school together in Florida, swimming has always been a part of their lives and the dream of channel swimming started when they were kids. “I remember in the third grade, I was 9 years old, and I read a book about people swimming the English Channel and I did a book report on it,” Christine recalls. “I told my parents, I really wanted to swim the English Channel, that’s a lifetime goal.” Her parents didn’t buy into her nine-year-old fantasy but, Christine says, “the more my sister and I looked at it, the more we knew we were going to do it at some point.”
Fast forward to 2019 and Christine and Claire were ready to take action toward their goal. “We started looking at the logistics: how long we would need to train, which ones we would do first, and then covid hit,” Christine explains. With travel restrictions and other logistical blocks, the twins shifted their immediate focus from the Ocean Seven to the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown, as it sounds, consists of three channel swims: the 21 mile English Channel, the 21 mile Catalina Channel in California, and the 29 mile Twenty Bridges swim in New York. Since two of the swims are within the USA, covid and logistical considerations are far less restrictive. Also, two of the three swims in the Triple Crown are in the Ocean Seven,” Christine adds. “By completing the Triple Crown, we will have already started the Ocean Seven.”
Setting a goal at nine years old and following through twenty-three years later is something most people don’t do but their self-described stubbornness is equally matched with resilience, determination, and motivation. Their superpower, however, is accountability.
“Our biggest concern is just making sure we are both equally prepared because the goal is to do this together,” Christine says. If they successfully complete the Triple Crown, the Thompson sisters will be the first twins to do so, as well as the first twins to swim the Catalina channel and the Twenty Bridges swim—a possibility of three world records. “I know I’m going to do what I have to do to show up ready and I know she’s going to do the same,” Christine says firmly. “The accountability is at an all-time high because I don’t have to just rely on my training, I have to rely on her training as well, and it’s the same for her.”
Training includes not only preparing to swim for approximately 10-12 hours (or longer if conditions are unfavorable) but also swimming at night, in cold water with only a cap, goggles, and normal swimsuit, as well as dealing with sharks, jellyfish, and other sea creatures. “It [all] just comes with the territory,” Christine explains. “Barring any medical emergency or the pilot deciding it’s no longer safe to complete the swim, I’m not going to get out until she’s done and she’s not going to get out until I’m done. Having that level of accountability is going to be one of the biggest keys to our success.”
Although the Thompson twins aren’t sure when they will be able to begin their Triple Crown campaign because of covid repercussions and restrictions, being patient and waiting for their turn when the channels open is just another necessary part of their journey.
“I want people see from the two of us doing this challenge together is that when we make the decision to commit to something, there’s no turning back. The decision is final. Once the decision is made, anything that is required of me to make that decision successful, I will do.”
Follow the Thompson twins Triple Crown campaign here on THEMAGIC5 journal.