DENVER — Retired Colorado State University professor George Thornton was in the water for about 9 hours Thursday before giving up on an attempt to become the oldest man to swim the English Channel.
Thornton’s son Charles wrote a brief blog post shortly after the attempt: “Abandoned. Hypothermia.” Later, he elaborated:
“Dad/George started his swim at 8:50 a.m. UK time. For 9 hours, he maintained a consistent 52-54 stroke per minute rate, had high spirits and joked around during most of his feedings, and made solid progress across the Channel.
“At his 8 hour 30 minute feeding, we started to notice that he was struggling with his fluid intake, seemed to have some difficulty with his stroke cadence, and was not quite as jovial. During his 9 hour feeding, Dad mentioned for the first time that he may not be able to continue due to being cold. He tried to push on, but at 6:54 p.m. decided to abandon the swim.
“From the boat, we were unclear as to why he was in distress. But, upon exiting the water we could see that he was shivering and moaning uncontrollably. Hypothermia had set in quickly.
“This was not a matter of training and preparation, nor a matter of mental toughness. Once hypothermia sets in like that, there is no way to overcome it while remaining in a cold, wet environment.
“Obviously, Dad is disappointed. Just as obviously, we are as proud of him as we could possibly be.”
Thornton was looking to break the Guiness World record for the oldest man to swim the channel.
Thornton is 73. The current record belongs to Roger Allsopp, who was 70 when he completed the swim in August of 2011 in 17 hours and 51 minutes.
Earlier in the day Thursday, Thornton was doing well, according to a Facebook post and video of his swim attempt.