Mihir Sen - The First Asian To Swim The English Channel

Mihir Sen was born on 16th November 1930 in Purulia, West Bengal. His father was a doctor in Cuttack. Mihir wanted to take up law as his profession. His father wanted him to study for the bar in England.

Mihir Sen did not know swimming until the age of twenty two. In fact, he used to dog paddle for several years even then. No one coached him in the art of swimming. He went to England in 1952 and took up law studies. To earn extra income, he got a clerical job in the Office of the Indian High Commission. Before getting this clerical job, he also worked as a porter on railway platforms. He developed a passion for swimming in his twenty-third year and used to spend most of his free time in a swimming pool, practicing hard. After completing his studies, he had a wild driving spirit that made him enter into the English Channel swimming competition.  He entered his name and swam across the English Channel from Dover to Calais on 27th September 1958. He became the first Asian to cross the English Channel. He did this feat in an astonishing time of fourteen hours and forty five minutes.

In 1966, Mihir Sen established five important records and became an outstanding salt water swimmer. On 6th April 1966, he crossed the Palk Strait between Sri Lanka and India. He swam from Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Dhanushkodi in India. It was a brave attempt to swim across the shark infested waters and dangerous waves. He was assisted by the Indian Navy during this swim.

On 24th August 1966, he swam across the Strait of Gibraltar also known as the `Dar-e-Daniyal’. Here too, he swam across a dangerous water stretch in this shark filled Strait between Africa and Europe. On 12th September 1966, he became the world’s first man to swim across the Dardanelles which is a sixty-one kilometre stretch between Asiatic Turkey and Europe. The Dardanelles connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. On 21st September 1966, he crossed the Bosphorus which is also known as the Wasphorus or the Istanbul Strait which forms part of the boundary between Asia and Europe. On 29th October 1966, he swam across the Panama Canal.

In the year 1966, he created a world record for swimming the longest distance. He is a swimmer with no match from India.  He swam more than six hundred kilometres in the sea water. He has done what no other swimmer has done before. He swam across five continents in one calendar year and entered into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mihir Sen’s achievements inspired a spirit of adventure in many young Indians.  There are two examples that can be cited. First, in 1974, Avinash Sarang, a water polo player, crossed the English Channel despite torrential weather. Second, in 1994, a twelve year old Kutraleshwaran crossed five oceans and entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest swimmer to perform this feat.

After his swimming years were over, Mihir Sen practiced as a barrister at the Kolkata High Court. He also became the President of the Explorers Club of India. In 1959, he was awarded the Padma Shri and he received the Padma Bhushan in 1967. Mihir Sen suffered with Alzheimer’s disease and died when he was only in his mid sixties on 11th June 1997. He has brought glory to India by creating records and making his name as one of the greatest swimmers of all times who achieved worldwide fame.


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Tahseen Nakavi Juror

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Keywords :
Mihir Sen , Swimmer


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