Ocean swimmer voted man of the year in global poll

Ireland’s open water swimming legend Steve Redmond has been named the elite sport’s man of the year.

Redmond, who last July became the first person in the world to complete the epic Oceans Seven challenge, was crowned the World Open Water Swimming Association’s man of the year after a global public vote online.

Redmond had been neck-and-neck for the title with Benjamin Schulte, 16, of Guam, who swam in the London Olympics.

The result, which was in doubt right to the end, was announced yesterday.

“I’m absolutely stunned. I’d like to thank everyone who voted and those who helped co-ordinate the vote, especially Ossi Schmidt and Imelda Lynch,” West Cork-based Redmond said after a bracing early morning New Year’s Day swim in Lough Ine with about 50 other hardy souls.

“It was us up against the world again and we’ve done it. This award is for everyone.”

The World Open Water Swimming Association said few people in the history of open water swimming have carried the heavy physical, mental, emotional, and financial burdens that Redmond “heaped upon his broad shoulders” last year.

A spokesman said Redmond was so driven, so committed, and so haunted in his quest to achieve that he travelled the world as he pushed his body, stretched his soul, worried his family, inspired his community, and moved a nation.

“He publicly laid everything he had on the line — money, reputation, family and friends — in a relentlessly tenacious assault on the world’s most difficult channels,” he said.

“Throughout the year with Mother Nature anything but maternalistic, he battled every obstacle known to open water swimmers: Unpredictable weather, stinging creatures, oncoming currents, ocean swells, financial burdens, global logistics, night blindness, and fierce winds.

“Failure unmercifully greeted him nearly 50% of the time during 2012, but he eventually wrestled success from the angry seas.”

In what was the final swim of the Ocean Sevens Challenge, Redmond tried to swim across the treacherous Tsugaru Channel in Japan three times last July before finally succeeding on his fourth attempt.

He also became the first person to swim around the Fastnet Rock off the south-west coast last year.

The world body said Redmond’s swims across the Cook Strait in New Zealand, the Molokai Channel in Hawaii, the Tsugaru Channel in Japan, and around Fastnet have endeared him to his nation and the entire open water swimming community.

Schmidt, who runs Brookfield Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic in Cork, helped mount a massive online voting campaign for Redmond, who is planing to spend seven days swimming the length of the Shannon in June.

He said he was delighted with the outcome and although votes flooded in from the around the world, he said it was the support from West Cork which secured the award.

“When we started this, people said ‘sure we all know what he did — why does he need an award?’

“But when we looked at the shortlist, we felt he was the person who should win it.”

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