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by Sharon Robb

July 11, 2002

Challenge of a Lifetime, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, July 11, 2002

Two years ago, John Ceraolo of Coral Springs started training for an English Channel swim. Since he was 15, he has competed in road races, ocean swims and triathlons, including 10 Ironman distances. He accomplished his goal of completing 100 triathlons by the time he turned 40. But the 41-year-old corporate security manager for Citrix Systems was looking to raise the bar a little higher.

Ceraolo was searching for the ultimate challenge. How far could he push himself for a 20 1/2-mile swim through treacherous currents, diesel fumes from cruise ships and barges, jellyfish, oil slicks and flotsam?

Ceraolo asked himself: "How high can I go?"

For six days, he nearly met his match -- the unpredictable weather off Dover, England.

"The wait for good weather is the worst thing," Ceraolo said. "I trained for two years to look at the water and watch a dream disappear day by day? I thought it would have been terrible had I not gotten the chance to at least fail halfway across. If I had never gotten into the water, I probably would have given up swimming."

On July 6, Ceraolo and his crew of Randy Nutt and Claudia Nutt of Coral Springs and Coral Springs Masters team coach Chris Jackson pushed out to sea for an amazing experience.

Ceraolo gutted out one of his grittiest performances to become the first solo swimmer of the year to successfully complete the English Channel swim from Shakespeare Beach in Dover to Cap Gris Nez, France.

In 59-degree water, he completed the swim in 12 hours and 57 minutes.

"When I put my mind to something, my body has to follow along and pay the price for it later," Ceraolo said. "If I have a goal, nothing is going to stop me from doing it."

In the past three years, the only other South Floridians to cross the Channel have been Chris Derks and Gail Rice.

"It's the luck of the draw, fate and weather," Ceraolo said. "That's why a lot of people think it can't be done. Believe me, after the second hour in the water when I was freezing to death, I was thinking to myself maybe it can't be done. I just kept telling myself to keep moving."

Ceraolo said his crew kept him focused. Every 20 minutes they supplied him with warm liquid nourishment. The last couple of miles he started hallucinating. The most satisfying moment was when he walked onto the beach and was greeted by about 100 French people cheering for him. One woman covered his shivering body with her coat, even though he was slathered with grease for protection.

"Seeing those people was the best part of the swim, worth every dime the trip cost me," Ceraolo said. "I felt like Charles Lindbergh. It was such a great experience to go through, a total adrenaline rush."

Copyright 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Challenge of a Lifetime, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, July 11, 2002


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