Image: Philllipe Croizon
Michel Spingler  /  AP
Philllipe Croizon, a Frenchman whose arms and legs were amputated, crossed the English Channel using leg prostheses that have flippers attached.
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updated 9/20/2010 2:38:17 PM ET 2010-09-20T18:38:17

Just days after swimming across the English Channel, quadruple amputee Philippe Croizon is already dreaming of a new challenge: crossing from Europe to Africa in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Croizon, who swims using leg prostheses with fins attached, also has an inspirational message for anyone discouraged or facing difficulties.

"You only need to want (something), and then it becomes possible to go beyond your limits," he told Associated Press Television News on Monday, two days after crossing the English Channel, which is 21 miles at its narrowest point.

Croizon, 42, had expected his weekend swim from Britain to France to take up to 24 hours. Instead, he reached the cliffs of Wissant in northern France on Saturday night after only 13 and a half hours.

He uses specially designed leg prostheses, which end in fins, to propel himself through the water. His truncated upper arms go through the motions of the crawl, and he breathes through a snorkel.

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Upon reaching the French shore, a wave threw him into the rocks, before being pulled out of the water.

"The guys on the boat were shouting, 'Get out of there!' The waves were huge," Croizon recalled. Then he saw his two sons up on the cliff above, cheering him on.

"I broke down in tears ... it (was) pure happiness," he said.

The swimmer's arms and legs were amputated after he suffered an electric shock in 1994 as he stood on a ladder adjusting his television antenna, which touched a power line.

While he was recovering, he saw a news report about an English Channel crossing.

"I watched the TV screen and said to myself, 'Why not me?'" he said. "So 16 years later, the 'why not me' became a reality here."

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He added: "I can't even realize it myself, it's crazy!"

Croizon said he hopes to be able to cross the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco, perhaps in a year or two after more training to adapt to the different conditions there. While the strait, at about 9 miles at its shortest point, is shorter than the English Channel, it has busy traffic and strong currents.

Croizon is an avid scuba diver and also made headlines for going skydiving. He wrote a book about his experiences called "J'ai decide de vivre" (I decided to live.)

He said the main message of his cross-Channel endeavor is that "we can all make it."

"We all have it in ourselves but it is well hidden, in our daily routine," he said. "When a big problem occurs, we can still pick ourselves up. If I can show other people that life is not only suffering, I would be happy. We suffer, but we get back up again."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: First quadruple amputee swims English Channel

  1. Transcript of: First quadruple amputee swims English Channel

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: A journey that began in England and ended in France wouldn't be all that notable if it weren't for the man who completed it. His achievement was to swim the English Channel , and Nina Dos Santos tells us why it was so memorable.

    NINA DOS SANTOS: After 13 1/2 hours in the water, Philippe Croizon reached land. As he emerged, the significance of what he had accomplished was obvious to all. This weekend the 42-year-old Frenchman became the first quadruple amputee ever to swim the English Channel . What's more, it took him 10 hours less than expected.

    Mr. PHILIPPE CROIZON: I just kept going and going until I finally made it.

    DOS SANTOS: We spoke to Croizon from his home in France .

    Mr. CROIZON: I was so scared of not making it, I kept thinking of my sons and all those people who have supported me through the years.

    DOS SANTOS: Wearing specially designed prosthetic flippers on his legs, Croizon swam a steady crawl with his truncated arms. A snorkel aided his breathing. Friends and family were at his side all the way, offering words of encouragement.

    Mr. JEREMY CROIZON (Son): He's just brilliant. He's an example for everybody. He's giving real inspiration to everybody.

    DOS SANTOS: The former metal worker lost his arms and legs 16 years ago after being electrocuted while fixing his TV antenna . While in the hospital, a documentary about swimming the Channel fixed his ambition. It took two years to train for the 21-mile swim from England 's south coast to France .

    Mr. CROIZON: It's a symbol for all those who think life is about suffering when you can pull yourself out of anything.

    DOS SANTOS: Since his accident, Croizon has been an inspiration for people with disabilities. Already he's sampled the thrill of parachuting, and now this brave Frenchman hopes to swim from Europe to Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar . Nina Dos Santos , NBC News , London .

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