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Young swimmer a media darling

World record set by 7-year-old

May. 26, 2006

After swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco, a hot shower, some food and a little rest were probably all that Braxton Bilbrey wanted.

Getting the shower and food was easy. The rest has been a little harder to come by for the Glendale 7-year-old.

Braxton is believed to be the youngest person to swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco. The second-grader swam through the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay on Monday morning in 47 minutes. advertisement

Since then, he's been interviewed by newspapers, radio and television shows. His story has been the topic of discussion around water coolers, local sports-talk radio programs and even national cable-TV news shows that usually reserve their discourse for political scandals or the latest celebrity babies.

And - especially cool for a young boy - his feat made ESPN's Sportscenter's Top 10 plays Monday night.

"It's been pretty crazy," Braxton's mother, Stacey Bilbrey, said. "But it should all be over in a couple of days."

The city of Glendale is even planning to honor its junior ambassador, but may wait until he finishes the school year.

Braxton got the idea of making the swim after reading a story in Splash magazine about a 9-year-old California boy, Johnny Wilson, who was said to have been the youngest to make the crossing.

Johnny completed his swim in one hour and six minutes last fall. In July 2005, a 9-year-old Colorado boy, Wyatt Oerman, accomplished the feat in 39 minutes and 39 seconds while competing in the Sharkfest Swim.

Braxton's purpose behind all this was to bring attention to the problem of young children drowning in swimming pools. That was the reason he began to take swimming lessons in the first place, at the age of 3.

A fund has been set up in his parents' name at Bank of America to handle donations for that cause.

Television programs ranging from The Ellen DeGeneres Show to Late Night With David Letterman have expressed an interest in his accomplishment.

The Bilbreys have turned to a local PR firm, Margo Media, to help sort through the requests.

But don't accuse Braxton of going Hollywood on us. The firm handles marketing for the health clubs where Braxton trains and was trying to generate interest in the swim even before it took place.

"They are considering all of the options at this point," spokeswoman Sarah Moran said. "They haven't completely committed to any of the shows. At this point, we're trying to just recover from all of the 2 a.m. interviews."
Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Written by Weldon B. Johnson
Copyright 2006 Arizona Republic

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