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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Boy swimmer's Alcatraz adventure
Young swimmer Braxton Bilbrey in San Francisco
Braxton says he was inspired by another young swimmer

A seven-year-old boy has become one of the youngest people to swim the choppy, chilly waters from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore.

Braxton Bilbrey took 47 minutes to swim the estimated 1.4 miles (2.25km) from the notorious island prison, which once housed criminals including Al Capone.

Despite several escape attempts, no prisoners were known to have made the swim by the time the jail shut in 1963.

"I could have done it again," Braxton told the BBC once back on dry land.

He said it had been "fun", and next time he wanted to swim out to the island, go around it and return.

Coach Joe Zemaitis, who accompanied the boy on the swim, said good conditions had been helpful, but insisted Braxton was "one in 10 million" who could undertake the challenge.

"He's a phenomenally talented swimmer - he's been swimming with my team for a year now, and right away I could tell there was something different about him.

"Instead of being dragged to practice, he wanted to come more, and get bigger and stronger. He's so tough, he can do it."

Shark strategy

Braxton said he was inspired when he saw a magazine article about Johnny Wilson, a nine-year-old Californian who completed the swim last October.

The former prison is now a popular tourist site. It is also a fairly popular swimmers' challenge. An annual triathlon, Escape from Alcatraz, includes the swim from the island.

Braxton conceded that there were "a few" sharks in the waters around San Francisco Bay, but said he was not scared.

Had he seen a shark's fin in the water, he said, he would have "punched it in the nose".


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