Avram Iancu - Iron Gates of the Danube River

Pojejena to Iron Gates 1

103.8 km (64.5 miles)

36 hours, 29 minutes on 26-27 August 2020

Observed and documented by Dan Ardelean & Ioan Cordea



  • Name: Avram Iancu
  • Gender: male
  • Age on swim date: 44
  • Nationality: Romania
  • Resides: Petroșani

Support Personnel

  • Dan Ardelean - lead observer
  • Ioan Cordea - observer
  • Octavian Tanasie - boat pilot
  • Tanase Todorescu - boat pilot
  • Alex Dobrosavlevici - boat pilot
  • Sorin Dumitra - paddler
  • Florin Matis Pastorel - paddler
  • Sorin Mamut - land support (car)
  • Mihai Badea - land support (tech)
  • Sergiu Gabriel Halauca - land support (tech)
  • Bogdan Zurbagiu - land support (tech)

Escort Vessel: Corsar 700 (Orsova)

Observer Dan Ardelean - Background & Qualifications

  • Swimming coach at CSS Hunedoara Swimming Club from 2003 – present day
  • Former Romanian national champion in backstroke between 1993 – 1996, at age group category.
  • Over 30 years swimming experience as a swimmer and coach.
  • Offered the title of Master of Sports by the Romanian National Swimming Federation (FRNPM) and with a bachelor degree in sport and a master’s degree in sports management.
  • Qualified as swimming referee

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: swimsuit (Madwear brief), goggles, silicone cap, earplugs, Vaseline

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Danube River
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Pojejena (44.767341, 21.572294)
  • Finish Location: Railway bridge 3.3km upriver from Iron Gates I Dam (Romanian side) (44.696385, 22.506723)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 103.8 km (64.5 miles)


98.8 km swim on a similar but slightly shorter route (Pojejena to Orșova) on August 14-15, 2020 by Paul Georgescu. Submitted to MSF Documented Swims but subsequently withdrawn at the swimmer's request.

Swim Data

  • Start: 26 August 2020, 10:00 (Europe/Bucharest, UTC3).
  • Finish: 27 August 2020, 22:29
  • Elapsed: 36 hours, 29 minutes.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 26 26
Air Temp (C) 13 27
Wind (kph) 2 23

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Energy gel (every 30 min), protein shake (3 hr), coffee (5x / day), banana, chocolate bar, water, peach juice, banana juice, crackers, sliced chicken, ham, chicken meatballs, grilled chicken, soup (as requested).

Observer Log

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Additional comments from observer Dan Ardelean

In Hunedoara County, the place where I live in, there are only 6 swimming coaches. Avram is from the same county and I heard about his sports accomplishments from media. At the county’s sports awards ceremony, organized by the municipality, for top 10 sports figures, where Avram was awarded a prize and two of my students also, I met Avram in person. Avram has asked my contribution to his next swimming adventure and I have considered it was my duty to accept and observe his effort.


What inspired you to do this swim?

This year marks 3 years since I have swum the Danube river, on its whole length from spring to the flow in the Black Sea, non-wetsuit, everyday with an average swim of 31 kms per day. This achievement has marked me for the rest of my life and it is proof that anything is possible, if we really put our body and mind at work. But what I think my biggest achievement is that I have contributed to the visibility of open water swimming in a familiar river and environment that has marked our country’s history, from the beginnings.

For this swimming adventure, a documentary “SWIM” has been produced and in 2017 WOWSA has included me in the list of nominees for 2017 Man of the Year.

After 3 years I wanted to change the approach of the swim on the Danube River, by pushing my limits in a non-stop swim and setting new limits, in the same time following the marathon swimming rules and tradition and to apply and obtain ratification from Marathon Swimmers Federation.

I love swimming and I was keen to set a new time record; The previous marathon swim time record was set on 30th August 2016, when I crossed the English Channel in a time of 17 hours and 54 minutes.

Please describe how you planned for the swim.

There has a been a thorough preparation, finding a boat, support kayaks, support car in case of emergency land support, nutrition and a lot of training. The quality of the support team needed was vital for the success. If in football the supporters are the 12th player, in open water swimming they are like the 3rd arm.

We found a very modern and large boat, to be able to resist any weather conditions and having considered the team’s comfort. The boat had 3 experienced pilots, in rotation: Octavian Tanasie, Todorescu Tanase, Alex Dobrosavlevici, all natives’ experts in that part of Danube River.

We also had two support crew kayakers Florin Matiș Păstorel și Constantin Dumitra, who paddled in rotation. They were rotated at 2 hours for efficiency and recovery reasons. The kayaker that was not paddling, was the one preparing the next feeding. We also had a terrestrial support, for any unexpected situation, Sorin Mamut, who was following us by car.

Bogdan Zurbagiu, Mihai Badea and Sergiu Hălăucă, experienced open water swimmers and with proven track record of documented marathon swims under MSF rules and ethics, have been the remote technical team behind the preparation of the swim. They have helped with the preparation (registration, functionalities) of the SPOT GPS tracker, registration for track.rs support and many other technical aspects I couldn’t have otherwise handled - this is how the swim had live tracking during the entire duration.

These guys have shared their experience in marathon swimming rules and conduct, organized internationally (Rottnest, Ijsselmeer, Lago D’Orta, Toroneos). Because they are also the only people previously done multiple self-organized documented swims (Romanian Lakes: Belis, Vidraru, Bicaz, Razelm), they have shared own hands-on particular specific know how to the observers.

I gave special importance to the observation of the swim. The swim was expected to take more than 18 hours, we followed all the recommendations and had two experienced observers, with an undisputable reputation and lifelong experience in swimming.

Mr prof Ioan Cordea is sports coach, specialized in swimming and is a former school principal.

Dan Ardelean, main observer, is swimming coach at CSS Hunedoara Swimming Club from 2003 – present day, is a former swimming Romanian national champion in backstroke between 1993 – 1996, at his age group category. Has over 30 years swimming experience as a swimmer and coach. He has been offered the title of Master of Sports by the Romanian National Swimming Federation (FRNPM). Has a bachelor degree in sport and master’s degree in sports management. He is also qualified as swimming referee.

How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?

I knew there was going to be a long and very long swim, so I chose to sleep the entire night before with no pressure on wake-up time and in the morning to get on the road to the starting point.

The start has been from Pojejena, nearby the 1055 km milestone on Danube River. I started slowly and after one hour I could already admire the first locality Moldova Noua. It was a first landmark, but I knew there was going to be an immensity of distance and there were going to be a lot more landmarks that I was going to meet and leave behind.

I swam under the Iron Bridge (“Podul de fier”), the only landmark of this type on the way. The fortress of Golubac delights the eyes and then I enter a routine of endless swim.

Nothing particular happened in the first 10 hours, then a pleasant pain started feeling in the involved muscles. I took my feeding on 30 minutes breaks and continued swimming. In the first 18 hours I felt pretty good, I was still in a place / time that I knew from the English Channel swim. After this time, I enter the unknown – before.

Physically I went through all the imaginable pain, adaptations and transformation. The capacity of my body to overcome them kept me going.

The night was a special challenge. Physically speaking I had some rough moments, when I was doubting, I could make it to the end. The first difficult time was during night, when I had the impression that independent of my stroke and effort, I am not making any progress. I was not reaching, the way I was expecting, the next landmark, the next corner.

The morning finds me on the straightest line of the route, a line that seems infinite. Somewhere in the distance you could see a divided mountain, making the border shores, it was the entry into “Cazanele Mici”. After all, I had made it here. I thought it was a blessing, but in fact it proved to be more like a curse, because here there are a lot of ships that transport the tourist visiting the beauties of the area. There are a lot of waves, high and irregular. These hit the rocks and then get back.

I felt like I was in a wash machine, I felt like drowning. My swimming speed was about 1km per hour, the body position was about 45 degrees, as if someone was pulling my legs. Never before did I feel this sensation. I wanted to quit.

Then I observed the tourists, that where cheering, taking videos/ photos. I was feeling a bit shyness to “drown” and I kept going. The cliff carved face of King Decebal, the largest of its type in Europe, brought more morale. I was leaving the Cazanele Dunarii and I recovered the optimism and belief in my strength.

Before Orsova I had to face the vagaries of the weather, with strong wind from the front. In these moments I was thinking of my 3 young daughters and my wife. Adina’s face, the youngest daughter, was smiling in my imagination and made the present disappear.

Something unprecedented in my swimming experience takes me out of my dreams. I feel like something is touching my legs. Once more, and once more. It’s clear I am not dreaming. I instinctively reach my hand and I notice that after 30 hours of swim, 8-9 millimeters of my ankle skin wrinkled and was swinging that I had the impression that someone or something was touching me, from the deep.

After 36 hours of swimming, I managed to double my previous and my country’s swimming time record and to achieve more than 100 kilometers under marathon swimming rules. I am extremely happy that the press has written about this adventure and to have contributed to promoting swimming and visibility of our sport.

I thank the team and God!


Avram Iancu!


Click to enlarge.