Endurance athlete Nick Thomas dies in attempt to swim Channel

A British athlete who was trying to run, cycle and swim from Marble Arch in London to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris has died crossing the Channel.

Nick Thomas got into trouble in the water near Calais, according to Enduroman – the event’s organisers. The 45-year-old from the Shropshire town of Ellesmere, near the Welsh border, had been swimming for 16 hours.

A spokesman for the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation confirmed a man had died, but added he was doing what he loved. “A swimmer was taken from the water less than a mile from the finish in France,” he said. “There was an extremely experienced support team on board the support vessel.

“He was given CPR and taken to Calais where he was sadly pronounced dead. It is an extreme sport, we know the risks. He was doing what he loved doing. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Enduroman, based in Dorset, says the Arch to Arc event includes an 87-mile run from London to the south coast and a 181-mile bicycle ride to Paris. In between, athletes must complete the Channel swim – usually 21 miles and in water temperatures of 16C (61F) or below.

Tweets posted by Enduroman suggested that winds and the tides had made the going particularly tough. The Channel Swimming Association says it can take between seven and 27 hours to complete the swim, partly because the tides and current can move swimmers away from the nearest point to make landfall in France. The company describes the “extreme event” as being suitable only for “experienced ultra-distance athletes”. Competitors pay £3,000 to take part.

Social media posts from Thomas suggested he had completed the event at least once before, with one showing a picture of him in cycling gear in Paris draping a union jack in the street. He had also competed in the Ironman Lanzarote event, according to its organisers. That also includes swimming, running and cycling sections in the area of the island’s main tourist resort, with 40 qualifying slots for the Ironman world championships available to contestants.

Freddie Iron, who was named joint-winner of the Channel 4 programme SAS: Who Dares Wins, which puts civilians through a simulated special forces selection process, said he was “absolutely devastated” by the news.

“A true Enduroman great, training partner and friend,” he wrote on Facebook. “He will be sorely missed and his loss will be massively felt in the Enduroman community. Thoughts are with his family. Keep swimming my friend.”

Ironman competitors and brothers David and Rowan Ardill also paid tribute. “So incredibly sad to hear of the passing of @trismartnick. A huge inspiration of a man who died doing something he loved,” Rowan tweeted. David added that Thomas had been an inspiration and had “helped hundreds more – like me – to get into triathlon. Such a sad loss of a great bloke”.

The Foreign Office confirmed it was offering assistance to the family of a British national after his death in Calais.