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Swimming to Overcome New Frontiers

1,232 kilometers in 25 days: Chemnitz University of Technology employee and extreme swimmer Joseph Heß wants to swim Germany's longest river - the Rhine - in June and July 2022

Almost every day for several weeks, he has been swimming between six and ten kilometers indoors as well as in rivers and lakes in the region, sensitizing himself to cold tides, in addition to completing swimming technique tests in the flow channel and enriching his diet with high-energy foods: Dr. Joseph Heß, head of the transfer project TUClab at Chemnitz University of Technology, wants to push his limits again in a few weeks. Having already swum through the Strait of Gibraltar in 2016 and the 620-kilometer-long German part of the Elbe in 2017, he wants to step it up a notch this year. "In search of new sporting challenges, I have set myself the goal for 2022 of swimming the entire Rhine from its source in Switzerland to its mouth in the Netherlands," reports Heß. The 34-year-old extreme swimmer wants to cover the distance of 1,232 kilometers in 25 daily stages from June 11 to July 6, 2022, and at the same time set a new record time in Rhine swimming.

"The challenges here are formidable, for example in the Ruinaulta, the gorge of the Vorderrhein in Switzerland that is up to 400 meters deep and about 13 kilometers long, or near the Rhine Falls and the Lorelei," says Heß. Of course, he and his team have to constantly keep an eye on ship traffic and the river's flow velocity and rapids. And at the mouth of the river, there are the tides to consider, which can be felt far inland. "I'll be crawling in the river for between eight and ten hours every day, drinking something every half hour or so at a support boat and taking a short break at midday," says Heß, describing the course of the tour.

Scientists from Chemnitz University of Technology, Leipzig University and Furtwangen University will accompany the long-distance swimmer from Chemnitz with studies in the sports and natural sciences. "This will include, for example, scientific studies on my physical exertion and the water quality of the Rhine," reports Heß. In addition, media management students from Mittweida will follow and document the ambitious action. Under the project title Swim4Science, they will accompany the project in an extensive Instagram campaign and subsequently produce a documentary film.

Heß will swim past Constance, Basel, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Koblenz, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg and Rotterdam, among others. Here, the Chemnitz native will also be on the road as an ambassador for Chemnitz as European Capital of Culture 2025. "At meetings with representatives of the city of Duisburg, for example, I will present our city, which also offers excellent conditions for swim training, for which I am very grateful. I am also in contact with other cities such as Bonn and Cologne in order to spread Capital of Culture messages as widely as possible," says Heß.

Further information on Joseph Hess and his swimming project on the Rhine: https://www.rheinschwimmer.de

(Translation: Brent Benofsky)

Mario Steinebach

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