Slovene swims length of Danube -- "It's enough"

AGIGEA, Romania, Aug 24, 2000 -- (Reuters) Martin Strel of Slovenia claimed a world distance swimming record on Wednesday as he became the first person to swim the length of the Danube River.

"In all, I swam 3,004 kilometers (1,878 miles), which is a new world record, a new Guinness record," Strel, 45, said at a ceremony in the Romanian Black Sea port of Agigea where he ended his swim, dedicated to "friendship, clean water and a free Danube".

"For me, 58 days of swimming is enough this year," he added, saying he had lost 11 kg (24 pounds) since he plunged into the river in Germany's Black Forest on June 25.

Strel, a professional swimmer and an ambassador for the World Wide Fund For Nature, undertook his odyssey to promote peace, cooperation and clean waters for Europe's second longest waterway.

The journey took him through eight countries including Yugoslavia, where portions of the river are closed to traffic because of bridges wrecked by NATO's bombing campaign last year.

The European Union has earmarked EUR 22 million (USD 20 million) to help clear the river but work has been delayed by disagreements with Belgrade.

"I'm very happy now after my swim for peace, friendship and clear waters. This river is very clean, not polluted, and must be free," said Strel, dressed in a wetsuit and looking fit.

The current record for the longest swim is held by Fred Newton, an American who covered 2,938 kilometers (1,836 miles) down the Mississippi in 1930.

Strel, who swam some 60 kilometers (37 miles) a day, reached Sulina in the Danube delta, on Monday. The port is the last before the 2,860-kilometers (1,777-mile) river enters the Black Sea.

He was then flown by helicopter to Cernavoda, a port on a canal linking the Danube to the Black Sea, to swim another stretch to break the world record.

A researcher for the Guinness Book of Records, based in London, said that once all records and pertinent materials were received, it could take two months to confirm the claim.

Romanian Foreign Minister Petre Roman and his Slovenian counterpart Lojze Peterle greeted Strel at locks separating the Danube canal from sea waters.

"It's a wonderful record," Roman said as he presented Strel with a Romanian tricolor flag. "It's a big victory, but also a project that brings people together."

Peterle joked: "Now it's time for you to swim (back) from the Black Sea to the Black Forest."

Original article