Nejib Belhedi is not walking for a cause or running to make a difference, but he is swimming for world peace.
Training at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, Belhedi prepares his body for the frigid temperatures he will endure during his swim in the Bering Sea. In a few days he will swim from Big Diomede, Russia all the way to Little Diomede in Alaska.
Peace spurs his passionate attempt to unify his own Tuareg People of the Sahara Desert with the Inupiat people of the Arctic region.
Belhedi has done this before. He is well recognized In the marathon swimming community and won the 2011 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year. This retired Tunisian army colonel is training intensively in the Sacramento area before he flies out tomorrow for his swim.
During a 2k warm up in Lake Natoma, he eats every 15-20 minutes to help preserve his core body temperature. His gentle kicks and rhythmic strokes make his swimming look effortless.
He glides through the lake’s warm 65 degrees, but he will face frigid temperatures leaving Russia.
Belhedi says he chose to swim because water connects the world, and he is trying to connect the children of his land to the children of ours. Part of the glue Belhedi is using to connect the children is their drawings bound in a special book, with colorful drawings of their homes and their lives.
Using himself as a vessel of peace and the sea as his highway, Nejib’s message will travel worldwide with each stroke.
Nicole Yi contributed to this report.