Chicago police officer swims Strait of Gibraltar

October 21, 2011 2:52:36 PM PDT
Chicago Police Officer Nial Funchion has just returned from a swimming adventure. He swam the Strait of Gibraltar in less than four hours.

He says everything had to fall in place in order for this to happen, and fortunately it did. Funchion has been with the Chicago Police Marine Unit for more than a decade. Before that he worked on land in the 9th District for several years.

Funchion is also a lifelong swimmer. And for his swim across the Strait of Gibraltar, from Tarifa, Spain, to Morocco, he combined his two passions. He swam with the purpose of raising funds and awareness for fallen officers.

Funchion says he had only about a four hour window when the weather and the shipping lanes would allow him to attempt his swim across the Strait of Gibraltar. He made it with 10 minutes to spare.

Funchion has been swimming all his life. He is also an 18-year veteran of the Chicago Police force. This 12-mile swim was to benefit brotherhood of the fallen.

"At a certain point you wonder, Did I really do enough? Did I get everything out of this life that I wanted to? And I am not going to be that guy," said Funchion.

Shortly before getting started, Funchion met up with three other swimmers who were hoping to attempt the crossing as well, an Englisman and two Germans. After some discussion about pacing, he invited them to join him. He says having some company along helped.

Funchion has also done other endurance swims, such as the English Channel, and that experience helped everyone in the group. Fortunately, no one in the group knew they had some other company along for the swim: A group of killer whales tailed them for nearly the entire way.

Funchion swam the English Channel a decade ago. At 45 years old, he says he is swimming better than he ever has. His next challenge is to try to swim around Manhattan, about twice the distance of the Strait of Gibraltar. Once he does that, he will try to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California. If he does that, he will be the 44th man to finish what is known as the triple crown of endurance swimming. He says it is the charity that motivates him during those long hours of training.


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