Derry swimmer Gerard Curran has been crowned Irish Long Distance Swimming Association 17km champion for 2013.
The 29 year-old is the first ever Derry man to win the challenging event which has been running since 1968 and he did so in impressive style.
The endurance swimmer posted a winning time of 4 hours and 38 minutes - some 12 minutes ahead of favourite Ger Carty in second - to clinch the prestigious title for 2013.
The North West Triathlon Club (NWTC) member - who is a newcomer to the distance event - clinched the honour just a fortnight after setting a new course record in a successful defence of his Warrior of the Sea 6k title in Sligo
NWTC’s and CDSC swim coach Lean Mallett secured second place in the female 17k championship, posting a phenomenal time of 4 hours and 6 minutes while NWTC’s George Meenan claimed second in the mammoth 25k challenge in 8 hours 12 minutes.
But it was Gerard who claimed the silverware and in his first competitive attempt over the 17k distance. “I’m still buzzing after Saturday’s event, there’s great excitement, my mother is buzzing to have an Irish champion in the family,” he told the Journal this week.
He was quick to congratulate his clubmates for their impressive performances. “Lean Mallet’s performance in the female category was an unbelievable achievement - her time would have won many’s a race over that distance. It was fantastic swim over 25k by Georgie as well.
“I have to thank both of them for all their help. Lean has been immense on the coaching side in the past few years and George has been a terrific mentor. I only took up swimming about four years ago and I owe a lot to them and the rest of our close-knit open water training group, especially Paddy Bradley, John Coyle, Paul Hyndman and Philip Bradley.
“I’d also like to thank Darren Bradley who was alongside me all the way in a dodgy kayak and supplied my carbohydrate drinks during the short feed stops.
It wasn’t an easy swim and it was made even harder when the kayak started filling with water. Twice that happened and I’d say I lost minutes as result,” Gerard said.
Cramp also threatened to scupper the local swimmer’s opportunity to win the title. “With about 5k to go both my thighs completely locked during a feed stop when I was treading water.
“It was horrific pain, Darren actually asked me if wanted to get out, he thought it was so bad.
“Two kayakers in safety kayaks who were nearby heard my squealing and said they thought I wasn’t going to make it.
“But thankfully, as soon as I got into the swim position again, the legs loosened out and I was able to get on with it.”
In the coming weeks Gerard will turn his attention to training for the Irish Long Distance Swimming Championship 10k race in September.