Seventh heaven as Irish father swims into the record books
An Irish father of two has defied exhaustion, jellyfish, treacherous currents and sharks to make world swimming history.
Steve Redmond (47), from Ballydehob in west Cork, has become the first person ever to complete the world's seven most gruelling ocean swims following an epic crossing of the Tsugaru Strait off Japan.
Mr Redmond -- who has been in training for the event for more than a year -- completed the 19.5km Tsugaru Strait in a time of 14 hours and 24 minutes on Saturday.
Experts said the open-water swimming achievement ranks alongside climbing the world's seven highest mountains.
The swimmer later said he was "absolutely delighted" with the achievement -- and admitted he was now looking forward to a well-deserved rest.
He will arrive back to Cork to a hero's welcome at 7pm tonight. Mr Redmond has completed an incredible list of seven of the world's most daunting open water swims, which began in August 2009.
These are the North Channel (Ireland/UK), Cook Strait (NZ), English Channel (UK/France), the Strait of Gibraltar (UK/Spain), Catalina Channel (US), the Moloka'i Channel (Hawaii/US) and now the Tsugaru Strait (Japan).
The adventurer, who is married to Ann and has two children, was in a race against a number of other professional swimmers who were vying to clinch the world record for themselves.
Foremost among his challengers was the Australian swimmer, Penny Palfrey (48), who, like Mr Redmond, had just a single channel left to cross to clinch the record.
The Australian woman -- who specialises in marathon swims -- last year set a new world record for unassisted solo swimming in the Caribbean when she swam for almost 41 hours and covered 108km (67.25 miles).
But while Mr Redmond focused on the Japan channel, Penny had committed herself to swimming from Cuba to Florida.
Unfavourable currents scuppered her record bid last month.
Mr Redmond admitted that the preparation for each swim was incredibly intense -- and involves months of gruelling stamina building as well as minute attention to detail in terms of the swim itself and possible threats such as sharks and jellyfish.
His only concession to matters outside his own control was to a set of Rosary beads he takes with him on every training session and on every marathon channel swim.
"Swimming at night is a bit like climbing a mountain blindfolded and naked. You can only see a few metres around you -- you cannot see the jellyfish in the water so you can end up getting stung," he said.