14-year-old becomes youngest to swim length of Lake Tahoe

State News

This Aug. 1, 2021 image provided by Jillian Savage shows James Savage, 14, of Los Banos, Calif. as he swam the entire 21.3-mile length of Lake Tahoe from South Lake Tahoe, California to Incline Village, Nevada. He became the youngest person ever to make the swim and complete the coveted Tahoe Triple Crown. He completed the two other legs of the triple crown earlier, each 10 miles are longer. (AP Photo/By Jillian Savage)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A 14-year-old California boy has become the youngest person to swim the entire 21.3-mile (34-kilometer) length of Lake Tahoe and complete the alpine lake’s coveted Triple Crown.

James Savage of Los Banos completed the trip across the scenic lake, which straddles the California-Nevada line, in 12 hours on Aug. 1.

He earlier swam the other two legs of the Lake Tahoe Triple Crown, all 10 miles (16 kilometers) or longer.

Savage and his mother, Jillian, agreed the physical training was a lot easier than the mental endurance it takes to complete such a long-distance swim. The trip across the lake started in South Lake Tahoe, California, and ended in the Nevada town of Incline Village.

She said she knew after the first mile that he would get the job done.

“I had no doubts whatsoever,” Jillian Savage told the Tahoe Daily Tribune. “He’s been swimming almost every day, six, seven days a week since he was 8. With open water, it’s just what he does. But mentally, even though it takes a whole bunch of us to make the swim possible, he’s really out there by himself.”

James Savage said he enjoys swimming in pools, but they’re pretty much “all the same.”

“Open water, you can swim in oceans, lakes, and you get to travel around,” he said.

Last August, at age 13, Savage became the youngest to complete the 12-mile (19-kilometer) “true width swim.” It’s also known as the “Godfather” swim because it starts on Tahoe’s west shore at the site of a mansion in Homewood, California, featured in the movie “The Godfather: Part II.”

He also swam the 10-mile (16-kilometer) Vikingsholm route that traverses the southern portion of Lake Tahoe, known for its pine tree-lined beaches and ski resorts.

And at age 8, he swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco.

The latest swim was piloted by Captain Tom “Reptile” Linthicum of Lake Tahoe Marathon Swim Federation. The team also included an official observer and pace swimmer. Jillian Savage served as kayaker for the trip.

Mom’s biggest worry originally was he might abandon the trip after a few hours if it became monotonous.

“It’s not like he can sit and talk to us when he gets bored. His face is in the water and so really, he’s by himself,” Jillian Savage said.

“But this time, he kept telling me, ‘Mom, I feel so much better mentally prepared this time.’ And he went out, and he just did such a great job,” she said.

With the title of the youngest person to ever achieve the Triple Crown, James said he isn’t sure what he wants to do next.

His mom says he’ll likely set his sights high.

“When he started this whole open water thing and he told me, ‘Mom, I want to swim from Alcatraz,’ and we kind of laughed in his face,” she said.

“We let him do it kind of hoping and thinking it would be a one and done, and he got out and he said, ‘I want to do this again. When’s the next one?’” she said. “And it just kept going and going and going and his feats kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I’m kind of afraid to see what he wants to do next. But whatever it is, we’ll make it happen.”

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