36-year-old André Belibi-Eloumou is readying himself to dip into the frigid waters of Bayside next week on Tuesday to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
However, how it came to be that Eloumou, a mindset coach who lives in Switzerland chose Airdrie as the place for his icy escapade came after he reconnected with a dear friend of his, Airdronian Levi Selk, a Calgary firefighter.
"I was going to Calgary to train for my ice bath record for my daughter, to raise awareness about ASD. [Levi] told me that he lives in Airdrie and I went there and saw his backyard; the backyard backs up onto the water and he told me the whole community plays hockey there in the winter," he said. "I was looking for a place to do a swim under the ice and I thought: this is the perfect spot."
Eloumou originally travelled to Calgary for cold-weather training as he attempts to break a world record for ice immersion.
"I'm looking for different ways to expose my body to the cold. It's a test and I'm pushing my mindset to see how far it can go. Of course, swimming under the ice can be scary and uncomfortable, but you cannot panic," Eloumou said. "It's really a pure test."
The test of both body and mind however is something he not only does for the health benefits; he braves the extreme elements over and over for his 11-year-old daughter Kira.
"I want to show her that it doesn't matter who she is; she can do whatever she sets her mind to in this world. I'm doing [all of this] for her that. But I am also doing it for all other who have autism spectrum disorder."
He underlined that there are many stereotypes the public has of those who have ASD, and it is something that needs to be combated with education and open-mindedness, considering there are five major types of autism which include Asperger's syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Kanner's syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder.
And although the personal trainer is no stranger to freezing cold, considering his personal best record for an ice immersion is one hour and 21 minutes. He will be attempting to beat that by setting the record at three hours and 28 seconds. He said that just as much as he prepares physically, he also prepares mentally.
"I visualize, visualize, visualize. The more you do things the more you can push it, push it, push it, push it, push it," Elomou said.
Eloumou is planning on diving into the waters of Bayside on Tuesday, February 28, and he encouraged residents to come out to watch and help spur awareness of ASD, which according to a 2019 study, 1 in 50 (or 2 per cent) Canadian children and youth aged one to 17 years have.
For those who wish to see Eloumou take the icy cold plunge, they can follow him on his social media; Instagram: @andre_belibi and Facebook: @andrebelibi. For those who wish to join him, Eloumou's icy plunge will take place Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. between Bayside Road and Bayside Landing.
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