Michael Teys. I'm a 55 year old lawyer living in Sydney, Australia. I'm bipolar 2. I have four children from a 28-year marriage, Ellen (25), Luke (23), Patrick (21) and Mary (18). I came out at 50 and two years later fell in love with a man, Michael, his two-year old son, Alessandro, his friend and Alessandro's mum, Anna-Maria. Complex? Not really, we're a very happy if unconventional family.
Meet Vlad Mravec (vladswim.com.au). Vlad's a hardheaded Eastern European with a big heart and an intelligent approach to coaching A-type personalities driven to extreme events. A former competitive swimmer himself, Vlad has a university degree in swim coaching. In just over five years he's built a very successful squad, 33 of whom have completed the English Channel as soloists. He tells us to 'Smile. Be happy.'
There's much more to Channel swimming than getting wet, my manager Nicole Piha (pihaswims.com) books my swims, organises boat crew and support, deals with international Channel swim authorities, organises travel, but more than that she is always on hand at training swims and the big events to guide and motivate me when I feel like giving up. She knows more about open water swimming than most swimmers, and more about me than I sometimes think I know myself.
In marathon swimming onboard support is essential. Your crew administers feeds according to an agreed program, keeps you safe, counts your strokes, and maintains your sanity. James Goins, an accomplished open water swimmer, and my sister Jacqui Bartholomeusz were my main support crew on the English Channel. For Catalina in July 2017 I will be supported by Cae Tolman (English Channel soloist 2014) and my manager and friend Nicole Piha.
Ocean swimming is anything but a solitary endeavour. My squad, VladSwim, are very accomplished athletes and good friends. They are hugely involved in my endeavours, as I am in theirs, and together under the direction of our coach we have become a global force in open water swimming. Our collective experience is building a powerful knowledge bank that will be very important to the growth of open water swimming in Australia.
I swim to raise money for Lifeline Australia via my Gofundraise page. Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians who experience a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Lifeline empowers Australians to be suicide-safe through connection, compassion, and hope. Last year Lifeline received more than 1 million calls from people in crisis, however over 3000 Australians died by suicide - double the national road toll. You can also donate directly to Lifeline by going to the Lifeline website.