Mariam Saleh Binladen has become the first person from Saudi Arabia to make a solo assisted crossing of the English Channel, the world’s most celebrated open water swim.
Mariam took on the Channel swim as part of a series of ultimate endurance challenges to raise awareness of the plight of orphan children from Syria.
The story of Mariam’s epic swimming feats will be told in a film documentary ‘I am Mariam Binladen’ to be premiered in December 2016.
Mariam’s Channel swim was ratified by the Channel Crossing Association (CCA) which permits swimmers to wear wetsuits and receive assistance to ensure a safe crossing.
Mariam completed the swim in 11 hours and 41 minutes, setting off at 7am on Tuesday 13 September from Samphire Hoe in Dover on the South Coast of England and landing at Cap Gris Nez in Calais France at 6.41pm on Tuesday evening.
Mariam’s swim coincided with some unusually warm weather conditions in the South of England. Temperatures have reached record highs of over 30 degrees Celsius, last seen more than 100 years ago in 1911. In completing the Channel, Mariam successfully navigated one of the worlds’ busiest shipping lanes with up to 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through each day.
Commenting on the swim Mariam said: “Completing the Channel swim is a dream come true and the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition. It has been an incredibly tough two years preparing for this, but I have learnt that if you are determined enough to achieve your goals and dreams – they can and will happen. I hope that my achievements will inspire others whilst at the same time I hope to draw more awareness to the plight of millions of suffering Syrian orphan refugees.”
According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) more than 4 million Syrians have fled their homeland with half being children under the age of 17.
Mariam continued: “As a young woman from the Middle East, I wanted to use my endurance swims to draw more awareness to the humanitarian disaster in Syria and hopefully make some kind of difference to the lives of those affected, particularly the orphaned children.”
Earlier in the summer, Mariam set a new world record as the first woman to officially swim 101 miles of the source of the River Thames in the United Kingdom. The June swim was completed over 10 days, during which Mariam navigated 32 locks and some of the South of England’s most iconic towns and villages. Known for its strong currents and eddies as well as high pollution levels, the Thames is well-known for being one of the most challenging and dangerous river swims.
Mariam prepared for the Channel swim for more than two years with a punishing physical training programme supported by her coach and swim-mentor Fiona Southwell. Training included daily routines in the open water and the completion of several marathon swim events.
In August 2015, Mariam swam the Hellespont open water swim in Turkey becoming the first Saudi female to complete the race from Europe to Asia.
Mariam was guided across the Channel by experienced pilot Andrew King, skipper of the escort boat and founder of the Channel Crossing Association.
A film documentary ‘I am Mariam Binladen’ chronicling Mariam’s journey and achievements will be aired at the end of the year on Swiss TV.