Abdel Lattif Abu Heif was born on September 30, 1929 in the popular district of Bahari in Alexandria. He is a five-time world swimming champion who graduated from Britain's Sand Hurst Military Academy in 1956.
He was awarded the Sports honour and named the Twentieth Century Swimmer in May 2001 for his great achievements in the field. The International Marathon Swimming Federation named him the greatest swimmer in world history. He crossed the English Channel three times (setting a new world record) and was chosen one of the world's best three swimmers ever.
In 1955, he won first rank in the first international English Channel race despite competing against such international swimmers as the American Tom Park. Abu Heif dedicated the prize money to the family of British swimmer Mathews Web, who drowned in the English Channel while crossing it alone unaccompanied. Mathews Web left behind a family of seven.
Abu Heif also won first place in the world's longest once-ever-to-be-held long-distance race (1963); it took 36 hours to cross 135 kilometers in Lake Michigan in the United States. In Argentina, he was able to swim for 60 hours from Rosario to Buenos Aires. Because none of the swimmers could finish the race, they were ranked according to the distances they covered. Abu Heif won first place. Along with Mari Hamad, he also won first place in the Seine River Race in France in 1952. He dedicated the prize to French swimmer Georges Valery who had just become paralyzed.
In the Montreal swimming race, he had to compete against famous world champions. It was a relay race and he had to alternate on an hourly basis with the Italian Julio Travello. After the second hour, Travello went to hospital and never returned and Abu Heif had to go it alone for 30 hours in a row. All other competitors had withdrawn on account of fatigue. This lengthy, violent race was never again to be staged. Following the race, he was awarded the title of Best Long-Distance Swimmer in History by the International Swimming Federation
Due to his popularity and generosity, Abu Heif was named the world's best sportsman in 1963. This put him in the golden list with Pelé, the Brazilian football player.