LURGAN Masters Swim Club completed their epic 24 hour ‘Great Lurgan to London swim’ last month with time to spare - and raising over £17,000 in the process.
The aim was to swim the distance between Lurgan and London, an exhausting 328 miles/21,000 lengths in 24 hours.
The event got underway at 6.00pm on Friday, March 9, and was aimed at raising both money and awareness for the Paralympics Ireland Swimming Squad.
The squad, who are elite swimmers with a disability from both sides of the border, is currently training hard in preparation for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Swimming has long been a successful sport for Ireland at the Paralympic Games and the squad is keen to continue its proud record.
The swim got off to a rousing start at Waves Leisure Complex, with an opening ceremony compered by Mr Jimmy Smyth who had the crowd in fine cheering form, for the Mayor of Craigavon, Councillor Alan Carson to lead the countdown to the start of the event.
Also attending the event were local MLAs John O’Dowd, Sam Gardiner and Jo-Anne Dobson, local councillor Meta Crozier, the Director of Leisure Services, Stephen Fraser from Craigavon Borough Council, Mr Patrick Haslett, from Paralympics Ireland, Dorothy Johnston from Lurgan Amateur Swimming Club and Mrs Barbara Uprichard, Manager of Waves Leisure Complex who was presented with a bouquet of flowers in honour of all her help with the event.
Many companies from around the province sponsored the event and with a target of £10,000 every penny was gladly accepted. Gerald Comac and Mark McAlinden from the Masters Sponsorship committee added: “We have been overwhelmed by the level of goodwill and support, especially given the current economic climate. It really shows the warmth and generosity of spirit of the people in the Craigavon area and across the whole Province.”
The members of Lurgan Masters Swim Club would like to take this opportunity to say a huge “thank-you” to everyone who sponsored, supported and swam along with them.
Catherine Hanratty from Lurgan Masters Coaching Team explained: “The event was a huge success. This was mainly down to the team spirit and enthusiasm of all the Lurgan Masters Swim Team.
“We swam through the night and at 1.45pm on Saturday afternoon we hit our target of 328 miles.
“After a quick discussion with the team, we decided to continue until 6pm as planned and managed to clock up an amazing 384 miles.
“On Saturday at six o’clock, as the final minutes ticked down to the finale of this wonderful event, we all felt immensely exhausted but proud of our achievement.
“We have been blown away by the staggering £17,200 we have raised”
The event was particularly emotional for both Francie McAlinden and Turlough O’Hagan, the founding members of Lurgan Masters’ Swim Club whose son Harry, was given the honour of swimming the last 200 meters to rapturous applause.
Harry’s father Turlough said: “Unfortunately I was unable to swim due to ill health but I felt really proud when Harry took my place alongside Francie. Francie and Turlough were presented with medals to mark the success of the club they founded and the event.
The Irish team who will be competing in the Paralympics in August this year will be presented with a cheque to support them as they aim to achieve gold and make everybody proud in London. Patrick Haslett from Paralympics Ireland was keen to stress that they are very grateful for Lurgan Masters support and that the final amount raised will help provide top-class training, competition and support for the squad in the build-up to this year’s Paralympic Games.