Abdellatief Abou Heif

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International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame]] English Channel team from the 1950s]] ISHOF dual inductee]] ISHOF dual inductee]] Johnny Weissmuller and Abdellatief Abou Heif]] Abdellatief Abou Heif (died in 2008) is an Egyptian marathon swimmer who was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1964 and in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1998.

Open Water Swimming Career Highlights[edit]


International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Memorial[edit]

FOR THE RECORD: Abdellatief Abou Heif, Honor Open Water Swimmer)

World's Great Marathon Swimmer from 1964-1964; Longest Distance Swim - 60 miles of Lake Michigan in 44 hours, 46 minutes; Competed in over 68 International Races between 20 km and 80km in length. 1964, 1966, 1968 World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation Champion. Famous swims, with first place finishes, include: 1964 - Seine River (Paris) France, 18 miles, 6:46.40; 1964 - St. Nazaire LaBaule, France, 26 miles, 6:41.16; 1966 - English Channel (France to England), 21 miles, 11:44.00; 1966 - St. Nazaire - La Baule, France, 26 miles, 9:44.00; 1966 - Nile River, U.A.R., 24 miles, 16:01.01; 1966 - Ouvers, Oise, France, 11 miles, 4:44-00; 1966 - Seine River (Paris) France, 18 miles, 6:46.60; 1966 - Saida, Beirut, Lebanon, 46 miles, 14:06.00; 1961 - Saida, Beirut, Lebanon, 24 miles, 10:46.00; 1964 - Lake Ohrid, Yugoslavia, 21 miles, 9:46.06; 1964 - Capri, Naples, Italy, 24 miles, (tie) 8:49.46; 1964 - Lake Michigan USA, 60 miles, 44:46.00; 1964 - Toronto (CNE) Ontario, Canada, 16 miles, 6:46.46; 1964 - Capri, Naples, Italy, 24 miles, (tie) 10:44.66; 1964 - Rio Coronda, Argentina, 48 miles, 10:48.60; 1964 - Toronto (CNE) Ontario, Canada, 20 miles, 19:00.00; 1966 - Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 10 miles, (tie) 6:18.64.4; 1966 - Lac St-Jean, Quebec, Canada, 20 miles, 8:44.46; 1966 - Rio Parana, Argentina, 56 miles, (tie) 10:41.41; 1966 - Montreal, Quebec, Canada (20 hour team race), 461 laps; 1968 - Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada, 28 miles, 9:10.00; 1968 - Molson Sprint, 10:44.08; 1968 - Narragansett, Rhode Island, 16 miles, (tie) 8:11.00; 1969 - Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada, 28 miles, finished at 10 hr.; 1969 - 24 Heures La Tuque, Quebec, Canada, 44-hour team swim, 64.6 laps.

In a country where marathon swimming is the premier sport, Abdel Latif Abou Heif is Egypt's national hero. Revered and respected, his fellow countrymen bow down to him, streets and buildings are named after him and when the great Abouheif speaks, people listen. To the rest of the world, he is an extraordinary phenomenon.

Very few other marathon swimmers can match the achievements of this amazing long distance swimmer. His death defying distance swims and open water races have been held in most of the major bodies of water in the world and under extreme conditions. For example, in a swim hosted by ISHOF Gold Medallion recipient Jim Moran, Abou Heif accomplished the 60-mile Lake Michigan Crossing of 1961, spending 34 hours 45 minutes in the chilly 62 degree F. water. In 1962, he spent over 9 hours in the 94 degree F. water, completing the 24-mile Mar Del Plata swim in Argentina. But like all of his swims, he endures, takes himself to the limit and recovers.

Between 1949 and 1965, he competed in over 68 international races of lengths from 40 km to 80 kilometers. In 1964, 1965 and 1968, he was the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation Champion of a circuit of races held in Canada, United States, Italy and South America. Of these 68 races he most often finished first and in only 12 races did he finish below third place. International competitions were hosted by France, Argentina, Lebanon, England, Yugoslavia, Mexico and Holland.

Abou Heif was born in 1926, the eighth of fifteen children and the son of a school teacher and Parliamentary member. He received his secondary education at Eaton and Sandhurst Military Academy in England. He returned to Egypt to serve in the army rising to the rank of colonel. Along the way he learned to play the piano, speak six languages, marry a beautiful Greek opera singer and become the world's professional swimming champion.

Abou Heif's five foot ten inch frame that weighs between 200 and 260 pounds, is well covered with fat to endure the exposure to cold water. His eating had no rules and he would eat anything that smelled good at the time, which, before a race, could include two whole roast chickens and a quart of orange juice and milk.

He was held in awe by every swimmer on the circuit. If there was ever any doubt as to whether or not a race could be completed, due to weather conditions, Abou Heif would erase that doubt and battle the elements to the finish line. No body of water was too difficult a challenge for him, either fresh or salt water. He has crossed or traversed the English Channel, Lac St. John, Capri-Naples, Canadian National Exposition, 24 Heures La Tuque, Quebec City, Chicoutimi, the Nile River, the Seine River and many more. His trademark was a flurry of strokes and a finish sprint that carries him to the finish line to strive with unyielding competitiveness and to endure in the battle with mother nature.

If an emblem were made that represents Abou Heif and his feats, it would have a big set of beautiful white teeth amidst a friendly grin and a picture of a huge stomach. He became the greatest marathon swimmer in the history of the sport and set the standards for today's open water swimmers.

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