Millstreet Man’s pride as son swims 7.5km through shark frequented waters from Mandela Prison Island
A MILLSTREET farmer whose son is a keen swimmer was in South Africa last week as the fourteen year old schoolboy undertook the perilous solo swim to the mainland from the prison island where Nelson Mandela 27 years in captivity. The world famous ‘Freedom Swim’ is a solo swim across 7.5km shark frequented waters from Robben Island to Big Bay at Bloubergstrand near Cape Town. It’s considered the ‘Everest’ of open water swimming.
Neil Moynihan was on board a speedboat which accompanied his son, Conor, as he took on the challenge last week.
Conor first of all swam through the kelp forest which rings the island and which contains a wide variety of sea life, some species being friendlier than others!
“Conor had swim through the kelp forest to get to the shore and then turn around to start the swim proper from Robben Island to the shore,” said Neil.
While the swim can be undertaken in a wet suit, the skipper of the boat which took Conor and his dad out to the island said that most swimmers do it in ‘speedos’, an added challenge which Conor did not baulk at.
“There were times when I was swimming when I felt something hit me in the water and that was scary,” said Conor, who pointed out the jellyfish and other creatures he encountered in the water.
“I was nervous about the possibility of sharks showing up,” said Neil. “There are sharks off the South African coast.”
The swim took two hours and ten minutes, a time which is one of the faster times for all male swimmers and is the fastest for a 14 year old to complete the challenging swim.
Neil lives and works on his farm near the Green Glens complex in Millstreet while Conor lives with his mother in Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
“Before the lockdown I was in South Africa for at least two weeks every three months and Conor was coming to Millstreet for the Summer holidays as he’s very close to his grandparents, Michael and Margaret Moynihan.
“Conor is very ambitious in terms of his swimming and he trains for at least two hours every day and takes part in competitions, is a keen water polo player and lifesaver.
“He goes to Grey High School in Port Elizabeth and is a member of the Bay Eagle Swim Club, the best club in the area.
“He also is a member of the Kings Beach Surf Life Saving Club,” said Neil.
While it’s the height of summer at present in South Africa, the climate makes it ideal for swimming all year around.
When he finished the Freedom Swim Conor declared that he might do it again to see if he could get an even faster time than his 2h10min mark and he’s keen to try other open water swims in the future.
His father is obviously proud of his son’s massive achievement in completing the ‘Freedom Swim’.
As the medal which is presented to those who complete the swim says, in the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘it always seems impossible until it’s do