Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Swimming the English Channel for CIRP

February 27, 2013

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to swim the English Channel? Imagine swimming 21 miles in 57-degree water with no wet suit, while negotiating tides in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Well, Ika Kovacikova, one of our 2012 Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) participants, is taking on the challenge. A junior at Wellesly College, Ika is a life-long swimmer and receives strong support from family, friends, coaches, and supporters.

Like her dedication to swimming training, Ika is committed to her academics. She spent her summer at CIRP learning about Injury Science where she made significant contributions to the research. During Ika's 10-week REU internship under the guidance of her mentor Dr. Joel Fein, she worked on the National Network of Hospital Based Violence Intervention Programs (NNHVIP) and  CHOP’s Violence Intervention Program (VIP). She surveyed Network members and received an astonishing 90 percent response rate. Ika was not only involved in the design and implementation of the study, but also participated in the analysis. Dr. Fein told me that Ika was critical to the study’s success, and he invited her to continue working on the project for the duration of the academic year with support from a separate grant.

Ika so enjoyed her CIRP research experience that she is dedicating proceeds from her English Channel swim to CHOP’s VIP.  This is her way of “giving back” to the Center, while supporting the hospital’s violence prevention efforts. As she continues her studies and her work for CIRP, she remains committed to her training, practicing between 16 to 20 hours per week for the competitive swimming season.

After the season is over, she’ll start doing longer (3+ hour) swims every weekend. Veterans of the English Channel swim have told her that it’s critical to train in cold water and had some chilling suggestions for her to prepare to swim in 57-degree water. So when she’s not in the pool, Ika is taking cold showers and ice baths. Last October she and her swimming partner, Annie Hamilton, achieved a milestone: They swam for three hours in a New Hampshire lake.

In August 2013, Ika and Annie will swim from Dover, England to the coast of France. This English Channel trek will take between 13 and 14 hours. Although Ika would like to come in under 13 hours, her ultimate goal is “to get to the other side!”

Good luck Ika, we’re all rooting for you!

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