Swimmer dedicates feat to grandmother

THE youngest Irish person to swim the English Channel has dedicated his record-breaking feat to his late grandmother.

Owen O’Keefe, 16, from Fermoy in Co Cork, swam the channel on Monday in 10 hours and 19 minutes.

As well as becoming the youngest Irish person to complete the 21-mile crossing, the St Colman’s student also set the third fastest Channel crossing time for an Irish swimmer.

He dedicated his swim to his grandmother, Virgie Baker, who died from cancer last November.

Owen decided to use the swim to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society.

Money has been flooding in and yesterday Owen said: ” I haven’t counted it all yet but as of yesterday, I think I had about €10,000.”

He arrived back in Fermoy to a hero’s welcome on Tuesday night. He was met at home by his proud parents George and Breda, and siblings Amy, 14, and George, 10.

They then whisked him to the Grand Hotel where hundreds of relations, friends, supporters and swimming club colleagues sprang a surprise party.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was pretty tired but the party went on late. I think I was running on adrenalin,” he said.

“The last day or two have been hectic — packed with emails, texts and phone calls and cards. It’s been great.”

He caught up on some sleep yesterday as the chronic pain in his shoulders eased. But Owen is planning to get back in the water as soon as possible.

As for his next big challenge? “I have to do the Leaving Cert next and we’ll think about other things then,” he said.


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