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Teodor goes swimming for 24 hours for ALS patients: ‘I don’t want to think about the end’

UDEN – He is thoroughly trained, but he hardly knows what he is getting into. Athlete Teodor Bogdanov will swim for 24 hours straight for charity: two families affected by the muscular disease ALS. ,,Too heavy? I’ll chop it into pieces and then it should work.”

For weeks, Bulgarian sportsman Teodor Bogdanov (24) has been training every day for the marathon that starts at exactly 7 a.m. next Monday. Then he jumps into the water at Ezzy’s swimming pool in Uden and only comes out 24 hours later, maybe even 25 hours. He wants to swim at least 2 kilometers, or eighty laps, every hour.

In deep trouble due to injury

Bogdanov played for the Bulgarian national rugby team and came to the Netherlands in 2016 to play for The Dukes in Den Bosch. In 2019, at the request of coach Marc Lewis, he moved to Octopus in Uden, where he now also lives with his Dutch wife and two daughters. Everything was fine until he suffered a very serious injury to his elbow.

“I ended up in a deep hole and everyone around you suffers from that,” says Bogdanov, his hair still wet from the umpteenth training. Just then he saw a video of Kevin Sinfield running a 24-hour marathon for one of his great idols: the English rugby legend Rob Burrow, who suffers from the progressive muscular disease ALS. “When I saw that, I also wanted to do something like that,” says the sportsman. Running wasn’t possible because of his ankle, so he turned to swimming.

Of course it’s tough, but it has to be. And especially if you look at what you are doing it forTeodor Bogdanov

He trained at De Kuilen in Langenboom until late September. “But when the water reached 16 degrees, that was really no longer possible,” he laughs. He knocked on Ezzy’s door and Thijs Driessen gave the Bulgarian free rein to complete his training kilometers. With the help of triathlete coach Onko Drent, he further improved his swimming technique and fitness to be able to last 24 hours.

No one survives ALS

“I can now swim 2 kilometers in 33 to 35 minutes. But it’s better to take it a little easier, in 45 minutes you can easily do that and it’s easier for me to keep up. I’ll try to swim for an hour and a half at a time and then rest for half an hour,” he says about his plan.

So far he has been in the water for a maximum of eight hours at a time. The big question is how he plans to get through the remaining sixteen hours. “I don’t know that yet either,” he says fearlessly. “But I don’t want to think about the end. I chop the marathon into small pieces. Just swim in the moment: extend the arm, pull through and so on.”

“Is it not too heavy? Of course it’s tough, but it has to be. And especially if you look at what you are doing it for. Look, people can be cured of cancer nowadays, but no one survives ALS.” Tears well up in his eyes.

Proceeds for two families

Bogdanov has set up a site to support his action. The aim is to raise at least 5,000 euros. Money that he deliberately does not transfer to the national organization (‘then I don’t know what happens to it’), but hands it over personally to two families in Haarlem and Schaijk who have been directly confronted with ALS.

The athlete swims in his own lane during his 24 hours. Support is received from, among others, swimmers from Volkel air base, recreationists and other Uden residents who now know who that gentleman is who has been swimming laps for months. Bogdanov hopes for a lot of support and an audience in the stands, his rugby buddies will certainly be there. “That gives me energy, I’m sure.”

And if he really gets into a slump, his eldest daughter might also jump into the water to help daddy. “If I succeed, I will add another 25th hour, then I will immediately have the Bulgarian record.”

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