Nguyen Ngoc Khanh, 34, and Duong Minh Quang, 25, started their long-distance swim from Long Bien Bridge in Hanoi at around 1:30 am on November 6, 2020 and reached the end of their swim at the Ba Lat sea mouth in northern Thai Binh Province three days later.

The record-breaking swim was not Khanh’s first attempt at navigating natural bodies of water. 

Typically, his training sessions take place in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. 

Swimming in open water carries the heavy risk of drowning, but a near-death experience two years ago has kept Khanh determined to remain aware of his surroundings and his own limits.   

“Long distance swimming helps me balance my mentality, relieve stress, and work toward my goals,” Khanh said.

In early 2020, Khanh founded a swimming club where he and those who share his passion train for swims of 40km to 50km in the Red River, in lakes, and at sea.

The idea to swim 200km from Hanoi to the Red estuary came to Khanh after a friend shared an intention to make an 80km swim in 2020. 

Believing he could shatter that record, Khanh made it his mission to form a team that could swim 200km together.

Nguyen Ngoc Khanh swims in the Hong River. Photo: N. Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Ngoc Khanh swims in the Hong River in Hanoi. Photo: N. Khanh / Tuoi Tre

Enlisting three other men and one woman from his swimming club, Khanh formed a team of five and began hosting long-distance swim training sessions two to three times a week, during which the group would run 10km and swim 10km together.

The group began their swim at Long Bien Bridge, swimming approximately 70km over 15 hours each day with food and water breaks every 15-20km.

To complete the voyage, the team relied on a 20-person logistics team to help light the way for the swimmers at night, warn other vehicles on the river about the swimmers, and supply necessities.

In the end, Khanh and Quang completed the entire journey while the three other members of their team swam 70-100km.

“There were times that the swim was so boring that I honestly didn’t think there was any reason to continue. I really had to force myself to complete the goal,” Khanh recounted.

Quang, meanwhile, viewed the journey as a battle against his own limits.

“Now that I’ve swum 200km in three days, I dream of going on a longer journey,” he said.

According to Nguyen Van Thang, head of the Veterans Swimming Club, a group which hosts swims in the Red River, this is the first 200km swim completed in the country.

Khanh shared that his dream for the future is to swim the length of Vietnam’s coast.

His immediate goals, however, include popularizing and sharing knowledge of open-water swimming and organizing river and lake swim tournaments for those who share his passion.

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