Andreas Fath is attempting an incredible athletic feat in swimming the entire 652-mile Tennessee River. Months ago, in the run-up to the start of the “TenneSwim,” many of us supporting Andreas’s swim for science began to ask: Has anyone else ever done it?
We looked into it, and as best we can determine, only one other person has managed to swim the entire Tennessee River. Mimi Hughes, a teacher from Taft, Tennessee, swam the length of the Tennessee River over the course of five summers, from 1999 to 2003. But that’s not the only amazing swim she has completed. She also swam the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia in 1997, she swam the length of the Danube River in eastern Europe in 2006 and the Drava and Mura rivers in Serbia and Croatia in 2007, and she swam the Ohio River in 2010.
On Saturday, Andreas and Mimi met at Ditto Landing just south of Huntsville and had a wonderful opportunity to compare their experiences in swimming the Tennessee River and other major rivers, one super-athlete to another. Remember: Andreas swam the entire Rhine River in 2014. They are two people in a very, very exclusive club.
After meeting Mimi, Andreas had the opportunity to be accompanied on his swim out from Huntsville for a while by several students from the local Madison Swimming Association.
Andreas always finds the swimming is more pleasant when he has others joining him. So at many points along the way, Zolon Knoll (son of US Project Director Martin Knoll) has joined Andreas in swimming. When I met Zolon, who is an accomplished competitive teenage swimmer himself, he said about Andreas: “He’s an amazing swimmer. So strong and consistent. I really have to work to keep up with him.” Zolon’s last day with the TenneSwim project was yesterday, and Andreas and the team will miss him.
Fortunately, reinforcements have arrived. Andreas’s wife Nicola and two sons, Leo and Enzo, arrived in the US last week, and since they joined him on the TenneSwim, they have accompanied Andreas in the water from time to time to tackle sections of the mighty river.
Andreas achieved a huge milestone on Saturday afternoon after meeting Mimi. He reached the halfway point in his amazing journey down the Tennessee River. He hit mile marker 326 on schedule yesterday, and as of Sunday afternoon he is powering through Wheeler Lake, making his way to Wheeler Dam. All the teamwork and support of many friends along the way has helped fuel Andreas’s progress. He’s on the “downhill side” now!