My story

I am a Mexican open water swimmer

My story

I am a Mexican open water swimmer

My name is Antonio Argüelles. I have gone through many stages in my life—public servant, businessman, consultant, writer, public speaker—but, if I had to describe myself in some way, I would not think twice: I am a Mexican open water swimmer.

After completing my B.A. in Germanic Studies and Economics at Stanford University, I returned to Mexico and joined the public sector. I was Undersecretary of Administration at the Ministry of Commerce and Industrial Development and at the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, and then served as General Director of the National College of Technical Professional Education (Conalep). I never imagined it, but that is where I discovered my professional passion: education. I am currently General Director of the New Technological School (NET), which provides quality education at an affordable cost in the surrounding areas of Mexico City, and do consulting work for various state governments on educational policy design and implementation.

My name is Antonio Argüelles. I have gone through many stages in my life—public servant, businessman, consultant, writer, public speaker—but, if I had to describe myself in some way, I would not think twice: I am a Mexican open water swimmer.

After completing my B.A. in Germanic Studies and Economics at Stanford University, I returned to Mexico and joined the public sector. I was Undersecretary of Administration at the Ministry of Commerce and Industrial Development and at the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, and then served as General Director of the National College of Technical Professional Education (Conalep). I never imagined it, but that is where I discovered my professional passion: education. I am currently General Director of the New Technological School (NET), which provides quality education at an affordable cost in the surrounding areas of Mexico City, and do consulting work for various state governments on educational policy design and implementation.

Although I love my job, nowhere do I feel as comfortable as in the water. I started swimming in my grandfather’s pool in Cuernavaca when I was little, but there was a particular moment that made me want to be a swimmer: the victory of Felipe “el Tibio” Muñoz in the 1968 Olympics. After witnessing the race on TV, frothing over with energy, I knew immediately that this was the path I wanted to follow. For many years I trained hard and, although I did well in the pool, I never made it to the Olympics. However, swimming gave me much more than a moment of glory: it helped me improve my grades, instilled discipline and perseverance in me, led me to my first business—I started selling swimsuits and other Speedo products—and even enabled me to study in the United States.

Since then, I always try to have a goal or an adventure in mind. Sports challenges—any kind of challenge, in fact—stimulate discipline and concentration and make our lives more interesting and enjoyable. In other words, goals force us to push ourselves to become our best selves, and to me that’s what this life is all about.

That is also the idea behind my open water swims. After a period of focusing on marathons and Ironman triathlons, I decided to return to the water. I wanted to put myself to the test once again, this time in the ocean. First, I completed the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, which consists of three challenges: crossing the Catalina Channel off the coast of California, swimming around Manhattan Island and crossing the English Channel. Then, when I turned 50, I did it again. And more recently, in 2017, I completed the Oceans Seven, a series of seven high-difficulty open water swims around the world (Cook Strait, Strait of Gibraltar, Strait of Tsugaru, Catalina Channel, English Channel, Ka’iwi Channel, and North Channel).

The next challenge, of course, is already in sight. In August 2019 I finished a double crossing of the Catalina Channel in preparation for a double crossing of the English Channel in 2021. If the Catalina swim was hard—it took me 24 hours and 17 minutes—the English Channel swim will surely be worse, especially if one takes into account that by then I will be 62 years old.

On dry land, I also try to constantly challenge myself and create new projects. One of them, Brazada Abrazada (or Hugging Swimming Stroke), combines my two great passions: education and swimming. Through aquatic activities, this foundation seeks to promote physical activity, foster social relationships, and develop cognitive and emotional skills among public school students. Swimming changed my life and I am convinced of its transformative capacity.

The other major project I’ve recently worked on is The Forever Swim, a book in which I tell the story of my Oceans Seven experiences as well as the main lessons I have learned throughout my life. Like my open water swims, finishing the book required a lot of discipline and patience, but it was worth the effort. Both the English and Spanish versions are available for purchase.

Positions as Public Servant

  • Undersecretary of Administration, Ministry of Trade and Industrial Development
  • Undersecretary of Administration, Ministry of Finance and Public Credit
  • General Director, National College of Technical Professional Education (Conalep)

Academic positions

  • Visiting professor, El Colegio de México

Awards and honors

  • Man of the Year, World Open Water Swimming Association (2017)
  • Oldest person to swim the Oceans Seven, Guinness World Records (2017)
  • Member, Catalina Channel Half Century Club (2015)
  • Man of the Year, World Open Water Swimming Association (2015)
  • Inductee, International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (2014)
  • National Sports Award, in the category of Sports Promotion (2009)
  • Golden Shoe Award, Runner’s World Magazine (1993)

Involvement in Organizations

  • Member of the Board of Directors, World Open Water Swimming Association
  • Chairman of the Board, North Channel Swimming Association
  • Founder and Honorary President, Mexican Triathlon Federation
  • Founder, Queremos Mexicanos Activos, a civil society organization
  • Member of the Board, Nueva Escuela Tecnológica
  • President of the Board, La Carrera del Agua
  • Founder and President, Brazada Abrazada Foundation

Education

  • B.A. in Germanic Studies and Economics, Stanford University (1982)

Publications

  • TThe Forever Swim, Mexico City, Reverté, 2020.
  • With Each Stroke: The Endless Blue, Mexico City, Limusa, 2003.
  • Technological education in the world, Mexico City, Limusa, 2002.
  • Labor competency and education based on competition standards, Mexico City, Limusa, 2000.
  • Towards educational reengineering: the CONALEP case, Mexico City, Limusa, 1999.

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