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Northern Ireland teen Jude Williams to brave waters of Turkey for gran’s charity

Asia-Europe swim bid for schoolboy


Making a splash: Jude Williams in training for the challenge, which takes place at the end of August

Making a splash: Jude Williams in training for the challenge, which takes place at the end of August

Making a splash: Jude Williams in training for the challenge, which takes place at the end of August

A Co Londonderry teenager is hoping to become the youngest Irish person to swim from Asia to Europe this summer.

Jude Williams, from Killywool, has been busy training ahead of the Hellespont and Dardanelles race, crossing from Eceabat to Canakkale in Turkey.

The 14-year-old is using what is considered to be the oldest swim in the world to raise cash for a charity founded by his grandmother Marie.

He explained: “All money raised is going to the Sunshine Foundation in Romania, a charity set up to rescue children with special needs from the old institutional orphanages in Brasov. My nanna led volunteers from Ireland and Romania to essentially build two facilities in the city, saving dozens of children’s lives and delivering a massively-enhanced future for them.

“It’s an epic project which persuaded the Romanian authorities to copy the programme across the region, vastly increasing the positive outcomes for those it helped.”

The Limavady Grammar School pupil — who will take on the challenging 4.5km swim at the end of August — says the charity has been struggling due to the pandemic.

He added: “Post-Covid, the project has been in dire need of additional support in order to keep delivering this much-needed care and we would encourage everyone to give what they can via our GoFundMe page.”

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The triathlete has already raised almost three quarters of his £3,000 target, with donations pouring in.

Jude adds that is hoping to make a splash with his dad Ryan by his side.

“We won’t be wearing wetsuits as they aren’t allowed for those competing for medals in the race,” he said.

“I just hope the weather is kind to avoid swim time being disrupted. There is only a small window of opportunity due to the fact that Turkish authorities completely close what is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes to maximise the safety of competitors in the strait.”

The father-and-son duo are following in the footsteps of some famous names such as poet Lord Byron and the mythological figure Leander who made the crossing on a nightly basis to be with his lover, Hero.

They have dubbed their bucket list challenge the ‘Swim For Sunshine’.

Ryan (47) believes his Jude can go the distance.

“We’ve been going to the pool, to lakes and the sea — we don’t stay together because I’m too slow, but we certainly go together,” he said.

“I’ve done other races before, but this is the one to do if you are an open-water swimmer.

“If Jude does it, he’ll be the youngest Irish person to do it, so it feels like the right time.”

Ryan says he is also looking forward to visiting an orphanage set up by his mum, who was a former special needs school principal, two decades ago.

“Initially, she began going out to train staff and improve the place,” he explained.

“She ended up buying a building and a farm which operates as a small business.

“Jude has never been, but we hope to go and present the cheque in person after the swim.”

To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/swim-for-sunshine 

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