Sunday 25 September 2016

'Super aunt' to swim 23-mile icy English Channel

Published 03/05/2015 | 02:30

INTO THE DEEP: Maura Twomey will swim the English Channel this summer to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Isolation Unit for children at Cork University Hospital Maura Twomey -
INTO THE DEEP: Maura Twomey will swim the English Channel this summer to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Isolation Unit for children at Cork University Hospital Maura Twomey -

She has "escaped" from Alcatraz twice now - swimming the icy, shark-infested waters off San Francisco's notorious penal island for the first time to celebrate her 50th birthday.

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And as she nears her 60th birthday, Cork native Maura Twomey will be taking on the English Channel this summer to raise vital funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Isolation Unit for children at Cork University Hospital.

The former primary school teacher, who grew up in Walkinstown, Dublin, and Cork, but has made Boston her home, will be diving into the icy waters of Boston Harbour this week in preparation for her gruelling crossing from Dover to Calais in July.

Although the sea temperature in Boston is currently a frosty 4-6°C, Maura, an acupuncturist by profession, isn't daunted by the cold or the rigorous training regime she has undergone over the past two years to prepare for the swim.

But she is aware of the challenges posed by the treacherous 23-mile crossing. Just one in six swimmers ever complete the England to France crossing, considered one of the greatest endurance challenges for sea swimmers.

"I could be really nervous, but I keep reminding myself of each milestone I have completed and to trust in my training," she told the Sunday Independent.

Last Sunday, she swam 14 miles in a swimming pool - the longest she has ever swum in a single session since she taught herself to swim as a child at the old Guinness brewery pool in Dublin back in the 1950s where her father worked.

Although that distance is just over the halfway point in the English Channel, Maura is confident that her training in Boston through the Cambridge Masters Swim Club and her local club - the "Nahunt Knuckleheads" - will ensure she is able to go the distance.

And if she needs another spurt of motivation during the gruelling 15-hour swim, she thinks of her little nephew Rian (4) from Blarney, Co Cork, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, who inspired her to take on the challenge.

He is one of 24 nieces and nephews from her 13 siblings whom she focuses on when she takes to the water.

"It's a form of meditation to keep me going when things get tough," she told the Sunday Independent.

"I just go nice and steady and think about all the people I know. Most of my siblings have kids, so I think about family and their kids and it's like a little prayer," she added.

And even though she will be turning 59 before the swim - scheduled to take place between July 9-13 - age doesn't matter. "I'm up there, but by no means am I the oldest," she added. So far, her campaign - Maura's Channel Swim - has raised €7,000 towards its goal of raising €20,000.

All proceeds will go to the Build4Life Cystic Fibrosis charity, which has so far raised €800,000 towards the €1.1m sterile unit at Cork University Hospital for children suffering from the debilitating lung disease.

Charity chairman, Joe Browne, said Maura is truly an inspiration and is delighted she will be swimming for the charity and children with CF.

"It's fantastic," he said.

* Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by logging onto www.build4life.net

Sunday Independent

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