Charity swimmers raise thousands for Doctors Without Borders

A swim around the Burj Al Arab raised about Dh256,000.

November 11. Participants start a swim around the Burj Al Arab organized by Wild Wadi Waterpark in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières. November 11. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National
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DUBAI // A charity swim around the Burj Al Arab was all in a day's training for 18-year-old Olympics hopeful Velimir Stjepanovic.

The Serbian swimmer won the Wild Wadi Swim for the third consecutive year as 678 swimmers tackled the 800-metre route around the hotel. About Dh256,000 was raised for the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

Mr Stjepanovic, who is training for the 2012 Olympics, made it to the finish in 7 minutes and 42 seconds.

"This is my third time at this event but swimming 800m is never easy," he said. "It was quite tiring because the waves kept hitting me. But it kept me close to the Burj so I did not have to swim much."

The event began as a regular training session for the Wild Wadi Water Park lifeguards in 1999, but became a public event in 2001.

"It's all for a good cause," said Haydn Holmes, the water park manager. "While most are out here to compete and for the prizes, a lot of them are here to explore and for sightseeing."

Swimmers competed in the individual and family category and more than 80 lifeguards in white caps were spread out on the route to assist the swimmers.

Geraldine Gibb, 44, said it was an opportunity to meet new people.

"I was a bit slower today at around 14 minutes," she said. "But this is a brilliant cause."