Egyptian monofin swimmer Sayed Baroky failed in his Guinness World Record attempt to become the first person to swim the 35-kilometre New Suez Canal with a monofin on Tuesday.
Baroky, 36, swam 18 kilometres in 5 hours and 10 minutes against a strong current.
Organisers had set a cap of six hours to complete the distance. The Suez Canal Authority had stopped traffic in the extension for the duration.
It was the first time anyone attempted to swim the New Suez Canal, an extension of the 193-kilometre canal that connects the Mediterranean and Red Sea.
Baroky arrived by boat to a celebratory crowd, despite not achieving his goal.
"I really wanted to do something good for my country," an emotional Baroky said after the event, which was organised by the Suez Canal Authority, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Egyptian Diving and Lifesaving Federation.
Baroky told The National that he wanted to "show the whole world that Egypt can make miracles".
He said he did not expect the tough conditions, particularly in the Great Bitter Lake and the Small Bitter Lake, where the challenge began.
“I swam for 5 hours and 10 minutes today – all of it against the current," he said.
While he had planned to swim at least 5km per hour, it took him three hours to cross that distance in the Bitter Lakes.
Sameh El Shazly, head of the Egyptian Diving and Lifesaving Federation (EDLF), said Baroky would have continued swimming, but it was clear he would not be able to complete the distance in the allotted time.
"He [Baroky] didn't get out of the water," El Shazly said. "We had to get him out of the water."
Baroky had been training with a monofin to cross the 33-kilometre English Channel, which connects England with France, for the past two years.
However, he had to cancel plans in 2020 and again this year because of the pandemic and travel restrictions.
“I got the idea with the relevant Egyptian authorities to do the record in the Suez Canal instead,” he said.
But "what I saw today in the Suez Canal is 10 times more difficult than the English Channel”, Baroky said after his bid.
The Egyptian previously set a Guinness World Record for the highest jump out of water wearing a monofin at 2.05 metres.
But, after nine years, it was broken by compatriot Omar Shaaban in November at 2.3 metres.
Baroky has been training with a monofin since the age of 12 and became an athlete with the EDLF in 2000, representing the Suez Canal Authority Club.
He joined the Egyptian national team in 2003 and has entered many Finswimming World Championships.
Since 2005, he has been living in Milan, Italy, where he became a member of the professional NPS Varedo finswimming team.
During his training, Baroky said he swam 35 kilometres in the Nile with the monofin for seven hours, but it was not officially recorded.
The current Guinness World Record holder for the farthest swim with a monofin is Merle Liivand of Estonia, who swam 30 kilometres in Miami, Florida, in April.
Baroky’s attempt coincides with celebrations for Egypt's Armed Forces Day on October 6, which commemorates the country’s victory in the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
He said he planned to try again, with the hopes that he could help boost Egypt’s tourism and perhaps lay the ground for an official race to take place.
“Instead of it being just a canal for trade, it can be a canal for sports and tourism for the whole world,” he said.