Olympians Sebastian Cuattrin and Sebastian Szubski have provisionally smashed the world record for paddling the 198.5-kilometre stretch of the River Thames from Lechlade, Gloucestershire, to London.

The pair covered the route from St John’s Lock to Teddington Lock in 21 hours and 57 minutes, provisionally beating the previous record by more than two hours as they paddled through 22 locks and ran and carried for the other 22.

The record is yet to be officially ratified by Guinness World Records, but the challenge provided the perfect motivation for Cuattrin to keep paddling at the age of 50.

Cuattrin, who is also the International Canoe Federation Global Lead for Flatwater, recalled a couple of funny anecdotes when asked about what keeps him going. 

In 2006, the four-time Olympian’s doctor suggested that he should stop paddling to preserve his health due to the hernias in his back, a notion unthinkable to the then 32-year-old.

Sebastian Cuattrin Sebastian Szubski Thames Guniness World Record

Sixteen years later, despite people suggesting he was too old to continue, Cuattrin took it in the right spirit, and it led to a daring solo paddle.  

“I was an Olympian and I still paddle. It helps me maintain my health. It is my life and my love,” Cuattrin said, crediting his wife Regina, a physio, for helping him maintain his fitness levels and keep his hernias under control. 

“Last year when I turned 50, people started saying I am old and to prove them wrong, I paddled for 150 kilometres on Lake Leman alone, without any support for 15 hours.” 

This massive effort caught the eye of Szubski, who was also Cuattrin’s teammate at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. 

Szubski, who already holds the record for the farthest distance (251.71 km) travelled by canoe or kayak on flatwater in 24 hours, decided to ring up his old friend and the rest, as they say, is history. 

“He reached out after my adventure on Lake Leman and asked if I was interested in beating the world record on the Thames River. So, I started training for that,” Cuattrin continued.  

“It’s a part of lifestyle. When you are an athlete, you will be angry at yourself if you don’t do any sports for a day.

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“That is my motivation and whenever I have time, I go paddling.  

“I have started liking these sorts of challenges. These targets help you move forward in life.”  

Cuattrin made his Olympic debut as an 18-year-old at Barcelona 1992, and went on to represent Brazil at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 editions of the Games.  

At the Pan American Games, he won 11 medals, including gold as part of the men’s K4 team in Rio in 2007.