The little mermaid Ariel wanted feet to go ashore with, but all Merle Liivand (31) wanted was to swim in the sea like a mermaid.
Now she has set the world record for swimming the longest with a mermaid-like monofin – without using her arms.
It writes Guinness World Records.
Liivand, from Estonia, swam a full 42.2 kilometers with a monofin in just 11 hours and 54 minutes in Florida, thus breaking his old record.
– This time was the funniest. I enjoyed the pain as I swam past many different places where people stood outside and cheered on me, Liivand says to TV 2.
She explains that many had agreed that she should make a record attempt, and several children had therefore dressed up as Disney princesses and superheroes for the occasion.
– I felt so much love from everyone that I knew that no matter what pain or challenges I faced – it was beautiful, she adds.
The swimmer has not experienced as much attention at previous records, and this is the fourth time the 31-year-old sets the world record.
In 2019 she swam 10 kilometers in just under 3 hours, in 2020 she swam 20.6 kilometers in 6 hours, and in 2021 she swam 30 kilometers in 9 hours and 19 minutes.
World-renowned athlete inspired
Liivand is a professional swimmer in open water, and quickly became known through TV interviews as the “mermaid” who was a spokesman for the sport of swimming and water safety.
But it was a world-renowned athlete who got her thinking about breaking the mermaid record.
The 31-year-old met former athlete Usain Bolt, and his manager introduced her as a mermaid swimmer.
– It was a joke that I was going to swim with the mermaid fin in the next competition, and then I decided to try it, she tells TV 2.
Just two days before her first record attempt, she decided to swim without using her arms.
This was to swim more like a dolphin or fish, but also to focus on pollution in the ocean.
During a workout, she experienced almost swallowing microplastic. As a human being, you can use your arms to push the rubbish away from your mouth – it can not fish in the same way.
Havelsker Liivand therefore chose to pick up rubbish while she made her record attempt.
– I picked up three large netting bags with rubbish during the swim. Even the Guinness observers were shocked at how quickly I discovered rubbish, she says and continues:
– When I finished, I even pulled rubbish out of my swimsuit.
Swimming was the rescue
The Estonian woman went to dance school as a child and was active. However, something was not quite right:
– My whole childhood I wanted to build magic, but ended up in the hospital, she says.
Liivand was born prematurely and was eventually diagnosed with autoimmune health problems.
– Often the doctors did not know what caused my health problems, and my lungs were very weak, the swimmer explains.
Eventually, swimming became her lifeline, and she used swimming to learn to breathe and ventilate her lungs.
– I am so grateful for the difficult journey, she emphasizes.
Liivand still has three asthma medications she must use when needed, but thanks the sea that helped her get stronger lungs through swimming.
– Now it’s my turn to fight for Mother Earth’s “lungs” – namely the sea, says the garden enthusiast who often picks up rubbish from the sea.
Baby food and soup
As Liivand has set the world record in monofin swimming in the past, she was more prepared for this swim.
However, she encountered some disadvantages:
– Getting bitten by jellyfish and salmon lice was just one of the things I encountered during my trip, the swimmer says.
Previously, she has faced challenges where the water was up to 32 degrees Celsius and periods where she has swum against strong currents.
During this swim she also got many wounds on her legs after using the fin.
Without food and drink, the hero is not good enough, and the 31-year-old also had to have food during the world record attempt. Eating while swimming is easier said than done.
The simplest solutions were to eat soup, baby food and gluten-free protein waffles during the long swim.
– I was not allowed to hold on to anything or touch anything. So I had to use my body to float while I ate, says Liivand.