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Illness Ends Effort to Swim English Channel
Ohio Wesleyan proud of students’ efforts to show the power of international friendship

August 3, 2009

DELAWARE, OH – Illness forced Ohio Wesleyan University student David Gatz ’10 to end his effort to swim the English Channel today, a challenge undertaken to show the world the power of international cooperation and friendship.

Gatz began his swim at about 3:30 a.m. EDT Monday (8:30 a.m. BST/British Summer Time), but was forced to abandon the effort about four hours later after becoming ill and unable to keep down either food or water. The 21-mile swim originally was planned as a relay with fellow Ohio Wesleyan student Usman Javaid ’10, but plans changed when Javaid of Lahore, Pakistan, was denied a visa to enter the United Kingdom.

The young men planned the 12- to 14-hour swim as a “gesture to the world,” Javaid said, to demonstrate the power of cooperation and friendship, and to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization.

“While the result is not as enticing as the idea of reaching a French beach, all us here are proud of the effort made,” Gatz said. “There were a lot of unfortunate and unpredicted hurdles preventing our original plan. … But we continue to try and make the best of the situation.”

Gatz of Delaware, Ohio, and Javaid both are members of Ohio Wesleyan’s varsity swim team. They met as freshmen when they began to challenge each other to races. Gatz said the two chose to swim the English Channel because it represented the “Mount Everest of swimming challenges” and was a physically and mentally demanding feat that “only the best of friends would be willing to undertake together.”

After Javaid’s visa was denied, Gatz made the decision to attempt a solo channel swim to fulfill the mission of their “Channeling Peace Initiative.” Gatz hopes to participate in a separate relay swim in the English Channel later this week, and Javaid, a gold medal swimmer in Pakistan, is planning his own long-distance swim there.

At Ohio Wesleyan, Javaid is pursuing a double major in economics and international relations, and Gatz is pursuing a double major in biochemistry and pre-professional medicine.

Rock Jones, Ph.D., president of Ohio Wesleyan, praised the students for their effort. “I am impressed by David and Usman’s ambition, commitment, and execution. They moved forward despite difficult obstacles. They remain a wonderful example of today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders.”

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 47 states and 50 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.