Meet the 75-year-old woman doing the Liffey Swim

Record-breaker Claire O’Dwyer wants to see more women her age swimming at her level

Claire O’Dwyer (75) training for the Liffey Swim, which takes place on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson

Claire O’Dwyer (75) training for the Liffey Swim, which takes place on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Claire O’Dwyer has been doing the Liffey Swim for so long she cannot remember her first one.

She is 75, turning 76 in November, and she will again participate in the 2.2km swim, the 98th instalment of which takes place on Saturday.

“I have spare energy a lot of 75-year-olds mightn’t have,” she says matter-of-factly, before revealing that her training has been curtailed because her husband has Parkinson’s disease.

In her youth she was an outstanding swimmer, qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, but the cost of the trip meant she couldn’t go.

She took up swimming seriously after her three children were reared and she began swimming in masters’ competitions in her 40s.

She holds more swimming records than any other Irish person. At one stage she held 50 Irish long and short course records in four age brackets.

In 1996 she won five gold medals in the world championships in the 55-59 age group.

She was the fourth woman home in the Liffey Swim 10 years ago out of more than 100 competitors, despite being one of the few pensioners in the race.

The Foxrock grandmother of six children swims whenever she can – “anywhere there’s pool space”. At present her training takes place in UCD and the West Wood Club. She tries to get there five times a week for an hour a day.

“It’s social. You get yourself out to meet people. You do the exercise and you feel great. It’s a great thrill to swim through the city of Dublin,” she said. “I would like to see more women at my age participating at my level.”

O’Dwyer will be one of 200 competitors taking part in the women’s race, starting at 2pm from the Rory O’Moore Bridge, beside the Guinness Brewery. Some 300 competitors are entered for the men’s race, starting at 1pm.