Olympian Rob Woodhouse takes on the English Channel for Can Too

01 Jul 2022

The type of hard work and dedication it takes to be at the very top of your sport, in any discipline, is significant. Now imagine if your chosen sport is made up of four disciplines, each with its own set of techniques to master.

That is where Rob Woodhouse chose to set his sights, the individual medley.

They say that the individual medley (IM) swimmers are some of the toughest in the sport, and for a good reason. Not only do they have to be excellent freestyle swimmers, but also backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.

Rob is one of only two male Australian Olympians to win an Olympic medal in the individual medley, with a Bronze in the 400m IM at Los Angeles in 1984.

Rob is also widely known for his commentary work on both radio and TV during the swimming world championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games.

So, Rob can swim. That is indisputable. And he's up for a challenge. He has certainly proven that.

The next big challenge on Rob's list is the English Channel crossing.


'I've been fascinated with the challenge of swimming the English Channel since I was a kid reading about the feats of the original King of the Channel, Des Renford. It wasn't until earlier this year that I started thinking about having a go at it, but now there's no looking back!'


If you're thinking, 'Rob is a highly successful Olympic swimmer, he'll do this easily', you may want to think again. Swimming 400m flat out in a pool is very different to swimming 33km in the ocean. The water temperature will be around 15-16 degrees, the tidal flow will push him off course by several kilometres and it's also one of the busiest shipping channels in the world!

These are the 'known' challenges. However, there could be many other challenges to deal with, such as the weather, ocean conditions, jellyfish, debris in the water, or… unknowns! It's a big day, anything could happen!

Rob openly states this is an 'attempt' to cross the English Channel. By no means is success a forgone conclusion. To prepare for the epic endurance event, Rob has switched up his training and is focussing on long-distance ocean swims along with some cold water training. An essential for Channel preparation.

The mental preparation for a swim like this is also crucial. We use a lot of energy when we are anxious or panic, so staying calm, focused and moving forward, whatever happens, will help Rob maintain the energy and drive required to make it to the beach in France.

If successful, at 56 years of age Rob, will become:

  • The 2nd oldest Olympian to ever successfully swim the English Channel behind Croatian/Yugoslavia 1960 Olympian Veljko Rogosic who crossed the channel in 2004 aged 63 years
  • One of only 5 Olympic medallists to ever successfully swim the English Channel.  The four who have done so are:
  • Great Britain's Bill Burgess (1900 Olympic medallist & 1911 English Channel crossing)
  • American Gertrude Ederle (1924 Olympic medallist & first woman ever to swim the English Channel in 1926)
  • Denmark's Greta Anderson Olympic medallist & 1957 first English Channel)
  • American John Kinsella (1968/1972 Olympic medallist & 1979 English Channel crossing)
  • One of less than 20 Olympians worldwide to ever successfully swim the English Channel.
  • One of only 2 Australian Olympic swimmers to ever successfully swim the English Channel, joining 1964 Olympian Linda McGill, who did so in 1965

'While it's a personal challenge for me, it's also a great opportunity to try and raise funds and awareness for the fantastic Can Too Foundation, an independent health promotion charity committed to funding cancer research.

At Can Too, they believe life is what you make of it and that anything is possible. I'm going to attempt this epic swim in early August and would love your support.'


To follow Rob’s progress, and to support him with a donation, head over to his Can Too profile and blog page.

At the time of writing, Rob does not have an exact date for the swim, but is booked into a tidal slot between 5 and 10 August 2022. The exact date will depend on tides and weather.

We wish Rob all the best for a safe and successful crossing of the English Channel. We can't wait to hear all about it!



The Can Too Summer Ocean Swim program will open for registration on 9 August at 12pm.

Save the date to avoid missing out!