Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Mr Ocean's 7

Stephen Redmond from Cork has become the first person to swim the Ocean's Seven. Inspired by the seven summits, the Ocean's Seven is a list of 7 of the world's most difficult open water channel crossing, dreamed up by Steven Munatones in 2008.

Stephen Redmond's Record

  1. August 2009: English Channel (England-France) in 20 hours 1 minute
  2. August 2010: North Channel (Scotland-Ireland) in 17 hours 17 minutes
  3. May 2011: Strait of Gibraltar (Spain-Morocco) in 5 hours
  4. October 2011: Catalina Channel (Catalina-California, USA) in 12 hours 39 minutes
  5. February 2012: Cook Strait (North Island-South Island, New Zealand) in 12 hours 30 minutes
  6. February 2012: Molokai Channel (Molokai-Oahu, Hawaii) in 22 hours 29 minutes
  7. July 2012: Tsugaru Channel (Honshu-Hokkaido, Japan) in 12 hours 45 minutes
Redmond talking about the Tsugaru Channel said "A faster stroke and kick made all the difference. It was a huge gamble. I did not know if I could stick to the pace, but I enjoyed it."
Redmond continues in his own words on Saturday 14/7/12 in Tappi, Japan 4.00 am:
Going blind from checking the weather on my phone. Everyone of the weather apps tell me today is going to flat calm with light north westerly winds. Hard to believe after the gales of winds we have had for the last two days. Yesterday was very sad as we said goodbye to our German film crew. Very very lonely here now. Only Noel and myself. Jesus, the pain of being defeated by this channel again is beyond words. I know people talk about the black depths, but I am living them every long second.
5.30 am All packed and ready to go home. We are getting the shuttle bus to Aomori at 8.20. Cannot believe that [our] chance is gone again. We have lost, I have let everyone down again after all the support and fundraising done on my behalf in Ballydehob and Skibbereen. We have been beaten. It weighs like a weight in my soul. The Tsugaru. Any way if it would give us half a chance, we would get over the bloody thing. The doubts about my ability to swim it have been banished. I take a call from a friend who tells me if there is any chance at all I should stay and wait. Her positivity is the spark.
I have a look out of the window. I am stunned by the scene that greets me: flat calm sea and a great sun all the small boats out checking nets. What the bloody hell is going on? Just the smallest glimmer of hope for a mad man far away from home is all I need.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Is the end nigh for Lance?

Many years ago I remember watching an alpine stage in the Tour de France and literally not able to believe my own eyes, Lance pulling away from an exhausted and beaten pack yet again, obliterating the world's best climbers on his way to another stage victory in the mountains. It wasn't just that he could do this, it was that he hardly broke sweat or looked under any pressure, and could do it again the next day, and year after year. It just didn't seem to add up.

Reading David Walsh's excellent book From Lance to Landis a couple of years ago confirmed my own suspicions (and I know this book changed your mind too, Tom). Apart from anything else, there were first-hand accounts of Armstrong confessing to substance abuse while he was in cancer treatment. He has since taken steps to silence those who went on the record in this book, including his Irish former soigneur, Emma O'Reilly (her side of the story here, "if my word is so worthless, why did Lance’s legal team feel the need to go to the High Court the morning of my testimony for the above case so they could sit in on it?"). He subsequently went from being an average peleton rider to (as we all know) an precendented seven time Tour winner.

Fast-forward to the present day and "the United States Anti-Doping Agency has officially charged Lance Armstrong with a violation, accusing him of doping during most of his cycling career and participating in a doping conspiracy" (full article in NY Times here). It seems they can prove he doped, and plan to strip him of his Tour victories (he hardly rode anything else remember).

I just did a bit of research to see who came second in those seven Tours, that is who would retrospectively be awarded the wins. The Swiss Alex Zulle was second in 1999, with Jan Ullrich second in the next two. Then we had Joseba Beloki in '02, Ullrich again in '03, Andreas Kloden in '04, and finally Ivan Basso in '05. Floyd Landis won the '06 Tour, but was since disqualified and the win awarded to Oscar Pereiro. Landis, Basso, and Ullrich have never (as far as I know) confessed to talking performance-enhancing drugs.

So, let's imagine Armstrong is found guilty and stripped of his victories. This would see Ullrich - a convicted drug cheat - awarded three Tour wins. Ullrich himself came third in '05, but was subsequently disqualified that year, and amazingly his placings in previous years still stand. Ivan Basso - another drug cheat - would be awarded the 2005 Tour. Basso was banned from racing in 2007 for two years. If nothing else, you have to wonder how anyone could possibly be good enough to consistently and comprehensively beat those performance-enhanced cheats?

There are two Irishmen competing is this year's Tour (Dan Martin was 8th in Sunday's stage, with Nicholas Roche 7th today) but the rot is deep, and it continues to put a stain on this awesome race.
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