Wednesday 23 August 2017

Former heroin addict rows into history books

Gavan Hennigan celebrates after completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Photo: PA
Gavan Hennigan celebrates after completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Photo: PA

Ryan Nugent

A former heroin addict who fought back from the brink of suicide to become an endurance athlete has rowed his way into the record books.

Clean-living athlete Gavan Hennigan (35) has become the fastest solo competitor in the history of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, dubbed the world's toughest row.

He pulled into Antigua's English Harbour after a punishing 3,000-mile (4,800km) journey across the ocean in a time of 49 days, 11 hours and 37 minutes.

He finished third overall in the 12-boat Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

He also set the record for the quickest Atlantic crossing by an Irish rower, beating the previous best by Sean McGowan by 69 days.

Speaking as he arrived to a hero's welcome in the Caribbean, Mr Hennigan said: "Coming into the finish line was just an incredible atmosphere.

"It was an epic adventure, and I would absolutely want to do it again."

The athlete struggled with demons and was addicted to hard drugs while living in a bedsit in London in the early 2000s.

"I had a lot of personal struggles," he said.

"I feel like having come back from the brink, that dark place in my mind, I don't feel like something like this challenge could faze me too much - this is just for fun."

The overall race winners were Anglo-American quartet Latitude 35.

Irish Independent

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