Former Irish Rugby international Rosie Foley is celebrating her own Triple Crown victory in memory of her late brother, Munster rugby legend Anthony Foley.
The 49-year-old physical education teacher and mother-of-three became the second Irish women to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming marathon swimming challenge after successfully swimming the Catalina Channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland in southern California on September 23.
She had previously completed the 33.5km swim across the English Channel between England and France in 2014 and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, a 45.9km swim around Manhattan Island, just last June.
Speaking to Independent.ie from her home in Killaloe, Co Clare, Ms Foley described her latest 32.3km swim as “magical”.
Having become acclimatised to the chilly waters of Lough Derg and the River Shannon where she trains locally, she said the balmy 22C temperature of the California channel was a pleasant surprise.
“I got into the water at 10.45pm and it was 22C," she said. "For us Irish swimmers, it was like bath water.”
Not only that, she was greeted by a sea lion as she began her 16-hour swim.
"I thought, ‘oh, that’s lovely’,” she said, adding she was also delighted to see numerous pods of dolphins during the swim.
"You could hear those beautiful noises,” she said of the dolphins swimming nearby.
Aside from hoping to raise money for charity, she said completing the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming was a way of paying tribute to her late brother, former Irish Rugby Union player and Munster coach Anthony Foley, who tragically died in his sleep while on tour with the Munster squad in the Paris suburb of Suresnes in October 2016.
As the sixth anniversary of his death approaches this month, Ms Foley said she believes he would have been proud of her achievement.
"He has a Triple Crown and this is my own Triple Crown,” she said. "It keeps his memory alive.”
Her feat in the water follows in the footsteps of her mentor, record-breaking long distance swimmer Fionnuala Walsh, from Kilrush, Co Clare, who made history as the first Irish woman to achieve the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming after crossing the English Channel in 2012, the Catalina Crossing in 2013 and the Manhattan Island swim in 2014.
The two marathon swimmers from Co Clare now join an elite club of just 279 swimmers worldwide who have completed the challenge.
Ms Foley, meanwhile, is hoping that her Triple Crown swim will help raise much-needed funds for her sister Orla Foley’s charity Orla’s Wildways, which supports the Mid-Western Cancer Foundation, the children’s charity CARI, and the charity CRY, which provides screening and free bereavement counselling for families at risk of Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS).
“CRY helps families like ours by screening people who are risk for Sudden Adult Death and provide free helpline for bereavement. CARI provide counselling and support services for children who have suffered the heinous crime of sexual abuse and Mid-Western Cancer foundation provides free support services, including counselling and holistic therapies for cancer patients,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ms Foley said she was thankful she was able to complete the marathon swims.
"I’m very lucky I can give this a go,” she said. "With all the ups and downs we’ve had, you say to yourself ‘this is one life,” she said.
"It’s a real privilege.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the charities can do so my logging onto iDonate.ie/fundraiser/ORLASWILDWAYS.