Nora Toledano, the Mexican who swam 7 seas on 5 continents

  • Andrea Diaz Cardona
  • BBC News World

image source, Sincerely, Nora Toledano

Nora Toledano swam continuously for more than 20 hours in an icy sea filled with sharks and jellyfish.

In the year In 2019, she became the first Latin American woman, and the fifth in the world, to complete it The challenge of the seven seasOpen water swimming is the most demanding challenge.

It took decades for him to achieve the feat achieved by only 21 people in the world.

Meanwhile, this 52-year-old Mexican woman has crossed the English Channel six times, completed a triathlon, raised a son, written a book and achieved her dream of studying biology.


Nora must understand their thoughts, train them to be her companions during the long hours spent swimming in the sea.

image source, Sincerely, Nora Toledano

“The mind can be your main ally, it can lead you to great success, but it can also You can spoil yourselfr,” the swimmer told BBC Mundo.

On one of the first crossings in Mexico, through the Cozumel Channel, Nora managed to swim for 15 hours straight, but she felt very scared. She thought a shark was going to attack her.

“I brought to mind the white dolphins swimming with me and that’s how the fear went,” he said.

In her mind, Nora chatted with the sea, sang at the top of her lungs, gave her warm hugs and faced the waves.

“You can’t get rid of fear or sometimes you can’t get rid of doubts. But the way you face them is how everything changes“, he says.

In swimming, unlike other sports that can be done in a group, there is no other option than to listen to yourself alone.

“Swimming is very, very quiet. You listen to the water, the bubbles, your breathing, so the silence leads you to introspection, to talk to yourself, to reflect.”

And Nora’s resistance is definitely built in the power of the mind. She knows that she is not the fastest swimmer, her thing, on the other hand, is long distance and resistance, which gives her hours of stroke between an uncontrolled environment.

Open water is a major improvement. Adventure. There you can’t control the lane, the depth, or the temperature of the water or the environment. The challenge is to adapt until you reach the other shore.

image source, Sergio Castelnuovo

They are very long journeys so that the swimmer has to take a short break to drink water and continue.

Take a 30-second break to drink some fluids and continue swimming. But we couldn’t even touch each other for 30 seconds. I can’t touch the boat or the kayak. Everything floats in water and floats fast. The supply is better,” explains Nora.

The test

The challenge of the seven seas for open water swimming, what lAs the seven peaks of mountain climbing.

The test was Created in 2008, it involves a person completing seven long-distance crossings in open waterways around the world.

The Challenge of the Seven Seas.  .  .

At each crossing there is a referee who accompanies the boaters and ensures that all protocols and regulations are followed.

There is no time limit, or a specific order. Anyone who successfully completes all the crossings will be recognized.

As the World Open Water Swimming Association explains on its website, swimmers must be alone, swimmers not assisted, supported or touched by people in boats, kayaks or paddle boards, do not wear wet neoprene and continue unaided from start to finish.

It’s something you can do. Parallel swimmingKnown as Tandem, Modal and Nora helped her overcome her major hurdle.

It was a crossing of the Catalina Channel in California, USA, and due to windy conditions, it had to be done at night. Nora was very afraid, so she stopped it for many years.

“Besides it being night, I knew it was on the coast of California. There is a white shark. So the two things combined cost me a lot of work.

image source, Courtesy Nora Toledano

But not because he knew of any attacks on swimmers in that area, he says. “There was nothing else in my head. They were ghosts.”

In the year Until 2016, a friend suggested doing the same with her. They swam for 12 hours and 25 minutes without a break.. Then Nora achieved her triple crown: the crossing of three channels in Europe and America.

With that success in hand, he decided to go for more. He thought that if he could overcome that fear, he would surely be able to make the four crosses he needed for the great challenge. He succeeded for the next three years.


Nora grew up in Mexico City with her mother and older brother. Although his father gave him his last name, he was not much in his life.

It was not easy to accept that absence and He sought his permission for some time.

Being an Olympic-level athlete, like he was in horseback riding, she hoped they might be close.

“We lived together for a while. I saw him two or three times a year as a child, and of course I knew he was an Olympian. I think one way to get his attention is through sports,” she said.

Until he realizes it doesn’t make sense.

image source, Courtesy Nora Toledano

“I said I have to do this for myself, not for anyone else, not for him and not to attract attention, that was my lesson. With or without my father, I was able to go ahead because I believed in myself.”

In addition, he always had the support of his mother. She says that she has played the role of mother and father and it is her main job.

It was her mother who taught her to swim at the age of 2 so she wouldn’t drown while playing with her older relatives, and it was her mother who put her in swimming lessons at the age of 4. Her professional path since she started competing as a teenager.

That’s why Nora is the perfect swimmer, along with her mother and her son Max, who are on the boat. He always wanted to go with him.But he had to wait until he turned 18 to do so.

That day came in 2018 and the chosen route was Tsugaru Strait, Japan. At dawn, the water was about 16 degrees, there was fog and mist, but the sea was calm and the current was favorable for him.

image source, Sincerely, Nora Toledano


Nora’s son on the boat he went with in Japan.

“I think it was my best swim because of that motivation, swimming and turning around to see my mom and my son who was the captain of the team.”

He achieved his sixth elimination of the race. Breaking the record. She crossed the 30 km stretch of beach in 6 hours and 20 minutes, setting a new time for the women.

A year later he completed the Seven Seas Challenge in Cook Strait, New Zealand.

The whole challenge was a journey that began in 1994 with the first crossing of the English Channel.

Years passed when Nora trained herself with so much discipline. even if He got lucky.

At a time when open water swimming was unknown in Latin America and not part of the Olympic Games, Nora was able to find people and institutions who helped finance her projects.

“I’ve opened many places in my country. In fact, I think many swimmers today enjoy the space that we opened the first ones because today they get sponsorship easily and people know what it is to cross the English Channel, the Triple Crown or the Seven Seas,” he explains.

She is white. Professional trainerTwo of the students accomplished the challenge of the seven seas.

In fact, he spoke to BBC Mundo from England as he trains a team of Latin swimmers to cross the English Channel for the first time before the end of the summer.

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