Estonian World interviews Estonia’s most famous “mermaid”, the Florida-based Merle Liivand, who is helping save the oceans and, at the same time, hoping to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics; right now, Liivand is also competing for votes to be the Maxim magazine cover girl.

The Estonian professional swimmer, Merle Liivand, is from Tallinn but has lived in Florida for some nine years – training, coaching others and raising awareness of the damage we are causing to our oceans and seas. Liivand is a member of the Estonian national swimming team and a former Baltic champion.

She is also Estonia’s most famous “mermaid” – Merle regularly swims wearing a mermaid fin without using her arms to increase endurance and generate publicity for the oceans. She was the first person to have swum the old 10-kilometre-long (just over six miles) Los Angeles Olympic marathon course as a “mermaid”.

Liivand has been in Florida throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic that has hit the US so much worse than it has in Estonia.

What led you to swimming? I believe you grew up right by the sea in Tallinn and I have heard the saying – the waves move you to where the ocean wants you, so how did a “mermaid” from Estonia end up in Florida?

I had health problems when I was little. My lungs were not really working well and learning to swim was my chance to learn how to breathe and use my lungs. I often spent time in the hospital when I was growing up. Later, it turned out I was gluten-sensitive and this had caused my breathing problems and stomach pain. Swimming was the way to handle this situation because my soul was full of desires to be productive and active, but it seemed like health was holding me back.

My mom, basically, was driving me from the hospital to competitions. When I graduated from high school, my health problems were getting even worse and I wanted to quit swimming. But then there was an opportunity to continue my sport in Florida. I truly didn’t want to move but my mum was the one who thought I should take this road and find myself and my talent. She was right! I found my passion to stand up for oceans and “mermaid” soul…

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