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550 swimmers circle Burj Al Arab for charity

Dh200,000 was raised in support of Médecins Sans Frontièrs in charity race around iconic Dubai hotel.

DUBAI // Any hope of a quiet morning at the beach for guests at the Burj Al Arab were dashed yesterday when hundreds of swimmers and support staff descended on the exclusive resort to race for charity.

Armed with megaphones and diet soft drinks, a small army from the Volunteer in Dubai organisation coaxed around 550 swimmers into the waters for the annual swim around Burj Al Arab.

The event, sponsored by Jumeirah Group, was held in support of Médecins Sans Frontièrs, an international medical and humanitarian aid organisation. Denise Karthak, from the Emirates chapter of the charity, said that Dh200,000 had been raised through sponsorship.

No sooner had the last person entered the water than the teenage winner of last year's event, Velimir Stjepanovic, was dashing up the shore to the finish line with a time of seven minutes, 25 seconds. Mr Stjepanovic, 17 and a student, is training for the 2012 Olympics, where he hopes to represent Serbia.

"It's was a lot more tiring this year," said Mr Sjepanovic, who hardly looked out of breath. He was leaving early to compete in the Presidents Cup in Abu Dhabi, where he was scheduled to swim in four events later in the day.

Last year Mr Sjepanovic gave the first prize of a bed and breakfast stay at the Burj Al Arab to his coach. This year he is giving it away again, to his parents. "If I win again next year, I will keep it for myself," he said.

Jamil Artin, a 28-year-old engineer from Syria, said: "I don't always come to these types of events. But it's a good chance to meet new people and also do something to help."

Chris Allan, 16, who came in fourth, said: "Every breath you take you get a mouthful of water. But after you've drunk a bit, you just get used to the salt."

mcroucher@thenational.ae

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