They’re a formidable duo who have literally pooled their talents to make Cork the Hollywood of open water swimming, and with a bit of help, could win the global recognition they deserve.
Eilís Burns, swimming coach extraordinaire, is among just 15 women worldwide nominated for the 2018 World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) Woman of the Year Award while Ned Denison, a dual UK/US citizen living in Ireland for two decades, is nominated for the equivalent male accolade.
They are the only Irish nominees.
Eilís coached Ned when he was training to swim the English Channel in 2005 and since then they’ve used their different skills to make Cork a global epicentre of marathon swimming.
Eilís, who has put thousands of Cork swimmers through their strokes, is a renowned pool coach and excels in improving stroke and devising training programmes.
Ned, meanwhile, has completed 47 epic marathon swims and says he is most well known “for swimming False Bay in South Africa, with 200 great white sharks and 200,000 seals” for company.
Closer to home in Kinsale, he’s better known for organising Cork Distance Week and putting swimmers through torturous challenges around Sandycove Island, including use of handcuffs on one occasion, and getting one swimmer to pull a boat by rope to make sure his next attempt at the English Channel didn’t end when the boat broke down close to shore.
Eilís, who played international-level water polo, and teaches Cork Masters swimming, spreads her considerable skills across Leisureworld in Bishopstown, Churchfield and Douglas, teaching adults and children and mentoring swimmers of varying abilities to becoming successful open water performers.
She is behind the success of dozens of Channel swimmers and marathon swimmers with no expectation of payment — instead she asks that they raise funds for a charity of their choice, which to date has topped €100,000.
“It’s a way of giving back to society what I have got out of life through swimming. Once you teach people to swim, the world is their oyster. I want them to have the love and freedom of the water,” she says.
Eilís brings her open water proteges to different seaside locations during the year, including Sandycove where retired anaesthetist Mike Harris, 78, is always on hand to help with her “ducklings”.
Ned helps set up connections for swimmers who want to undertake open water challenges in more far flung locations, so between himself and Eilís, the whole approach works swimmingly.
Last year Eilís was inducted into the Ireland Hall of Fame for marathon swimming for her immense contribution to the sport. Ned is chair of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. To help them win the WOWSA awards for 2018, log onto worldopenwaterswimmingassociation.com/2018-wowsa-awards. The cut-off date and time for online voting is January 1, 2019 at noon, California-time.