Yes, it's true! Our friend and famous swimmer, Jim Bell, became one of the Saipan Tribune's "Newsmaker of the Year"-- a well deserved honor, as his feats of swimming around and in-between the islands has been in the news all year.
Here is a portion of the article in today's newspaper:
Saipan Tribune, Thursday, January 01, 2009
NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR
By Jayvee L. Vallejera, Editor
JIM BELLOn June 9 this year, James H. Bell celebrated his 70th birthday by repeating a feat he first achieved nearly three decades ago-swimming across the channel from Tinian to Saipan. This time, though, he went in the opposite direction, going from Saipan to Tinian, managing to swim the five-mile distance in under five hours. He followed this up by swimming around the entire island of Saipan-a 45-mile distance-in several stages. He started his journey on July 4, 2008, and completed his last leg on Sept. 20, 2008. Bell's superhuman adventures were not without its share of drama. On Oct. 4, a Saturday, Bell tried to repeat his channel crossing from Saipan to Tinian. He was dropped off at the Unai Obyan Beach at 9:30am. He should have been on Tinian five hours later but nightfall came and no sign of Bell. Coast Guard choppers sent to search for him found Bell still swimming at 9am of Sunday, more than 24 hours later. He said a strong tide swept him away, forcing him to spend the night in the shark-infested waters. He waved away the Coast Guard's offer of help and completed the swim hours later. At the moment, Bell is trying to swim around the island of Tinian, again in several stages. The point of all these? Bell is practicing for his next goal-to cross the Torres Strait from Papua New Guinea to the Australian mainland. When asked why he wanted to do something like this, he responded: “I wanted to do something that hadn't been done before. I want to be an inspiration to others (I don't want to encourage people to take up channel swimming), but being 70 shouldn't keep you from doing what you want to do. You don't have to look at things as if they are written in stone.” Inspiration, indeed!
I'm sure that Jim will continue to see his face in the local papers, as he continues his swim around the island of Tinian. After that, who knows? Perhaps a swim around Australia?