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The Big Swim with Denis McAuliffe

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Denis McAuliffe

Denis has a terrible fear of water. He has been working with performance coach Enda McNulty who we met last week on the show with Denis. Today he will be in studio with his Olympic Mentor Aisling Cooney and swimming instructor Jackie Power to talk about the day Denis got into the water.

Learner - Denis McAuliffe From West Limerick - He is petrified of the water. When he goes on holiday getting into the water is not an option for him. Not sure why he is petrified, he pulled his brother out of river about 40 years ago can't remember if that scared him. He would love to overcome this fear. He can just about tolerate being in the shower. He does a lot of volunteer work in his community and enjoys gardening and fishing surprisingly but once he is on the bank don't ask him to go near the water.

Olympic Mentor - Aisling Cooney - has been a member of the Swim Ireland National Squad for over four years representing Ireland at every level, culminating with her achievement in 2008 in qualifying for the Beijing Olympic Games. Aisling is a dedicated swimmer of the highest calibre having managed her swimming career alongside taking her Leaving Certificates and carrying out Team Captain Duties for the National Team. Aisling continues in full time training in the High Performance Centre based in the University of Limerick, aiming to qualify for the next Olympic Games in 2012.

Swimming Instructor - Jackie Power - born in England to an Irish Mother and New Zealand Father. Growing up I spent all my summer holidays in Ardmore, Co Waterford and it was here, in the sea that I learnt to swim with the aid of my much admired water wings, under the instruction of my eldest sister. I soon graduated to being allowed to swim in the river Blackwater in Fermoy when visiting my grandmother.

At college in Sheffield I was appalled that my 5 flat mates could not swim, so promptly went about correcting this. One friend was absolutely petrified of the water and it took me 3 attempts just to get her to walk out onto the pool side, but with a lot of patients we did eventually succeed. I was a secondary school teacher in England for 12 years and although not a P.E. teacher I used to coach and help out in various different sports, including teaching swimming through sign language.

When I moved to Ireland full time about 21 years ago I could not teach in schools as I had no Irish which was a requirement at the time. Fermoy Swimming Club asked me if "I would give them a hand". I set about getting all my Swim Ireland qualifications and now Coach & Teach for Fermoy Swimming Club & Fermoy leisure Centre. I am also a qualified Swim Ireland Tutor so train teachers and coaches for swim Ireland. I am also part of the Swim Ireland Education and Training Committee.

Dennis is learning to swim in Killelane Leisure Center in Newcastle West. For further information call (069)77551

Other Swimmers:

Hanna Gillespie from Kildare and her Mentor Chantal Gibney who represented Ireland in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Louise Lennox Pastry Chef from TAS from Dublin and her mentor Nick O'Hare who represented Ireland in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Denis McAuliffe:

Just before you got into the pool how were you feeling?

I was very very nervous before arriving at the pool.

How did you control your emotions when in the pool?

I controlled my emotions in the water by assuring myself that I had experts by my side and I did what Enda had thought me about controlling my breathing. Both of those things got me through it.

Did you feel uncomfortable in the water?

Yes I did I felt very uncomfortable in the water.

How important was it for you that Aisling and Jackie were in the pool with you? Did that make a big difference for you?

Only for having Aisling and Jackie in the water with me I would not have entered it. NO WAY!!!!

Do you feel a little more at ease now in the water?

Yes I feel somewhat more at ease now in the water now. It is a slow process.

Do you hope that you will be able to achieve your goal of learning to swim and just being comfortable on the water?

Overcoming my fear of water is for me an achievement. If I learn to swim it will be a bonus.

Aisling Cooney:

Why did you decided to get involved with the Big Swim on The Afternoon Show, do you think it is important that everyone should learn how to swim no matter how young or old?

I think it is great for anybody to learn to swim and when I had this opportunity to help Denis achieve his goal of wanting to swim I was delighted to take it. I do think that everyone should learn to swim young or old it is a life skill. It is important in terms of safety, you could save your own life or even someone else's, its great for leisure, on holidays and its also a great way to improve health and fitness.

How important is it for beginning swimmers to have support when they are trying to learn?

It is very important. People learning to swim may have a lot of enthusiasm in the beginning but as it gets harder and they are finding something difficult about it that is when the support if your coach and your mentor, in Denis's case, or friends is needed most.

How are you going to help Dennis achieve his goal?

I will be here to encourage Dennis right to the end and I will be at some of the lessons to help him in his progress. He has my number so he can contact me any time if he has any questions and I send him the odd text with words of encouragement!

For some of our other viewers who are in a similar position to Dennis having a fear of water what would you say to encourage them to give swimming a try?

Remember that it is a life skill and what you do learn you will never forget it. As i said before it could save your life, its great for leisure and its really great form of gentle exercise especially if walking or running isn't for you. It isn't anything to be afraid of, bring someone along with you that is more competent and start of slow, just relax and enjoy it.

What was it like to represent Ireland in the last Olympics?

I was so proud to be able to represent my country at the highest level of sport in the world. I have represented Ireland at other international competitions but nothing has compared to the atmosphere there was at the Olympics.

And as I said it is so important to have support when you are learning to swim, it is also so important for me to have support at my level and I don't know where I would be without the support from my family and my coach Bill, Swim Ireland and the Irish Sports council. The all gave me so much help, it would be impossible without them. It was a huge experience and definitely gave me an even bigger desire to go for 2012.

Jackie Power:

I work with all types of swimmers from adult and child classes to National swimmers. I coached Owen O'Keefe who was the youngest Irish swimmer to swim the English Channel.

I have worked with various people who are aqua phobic's, some young, some not so young. My approach would be similar; the most important thing is to gain their trust. To do this you not only have to have a thorough understand of the Fundamentals of swimming, but also understand the person so you can allay their fears and work on their specific needs. It is important to have empathy with the person and to work at a pace which the non swimmer feels comfortable, whilst still progressing towards their goal. Swimming is all about confidence; in your teacher, in the water and most importantly in yourself.

I think Denis surpassed himself in the first session, but I feel due to the cameras he pushed himself too far and did not seem happy or comfortable. My suspicions were confirmed when he told me he had nightmares after that session. I am glad to report that he has had none since.

I think Denis is very brave and a very fast learner so I have no doubts that he will achieve his goal.


Would you like to help The Afternoon Show set a new Guinness World Record? With the help of the following locations around the country and Swim Ireland you can do just that. You need to be free on Friday the 21st of May between 2pm and 6pm and over the age of 16 in order to participate and you will have to be in the water.For further information call into your nearest location.

The National Aquatic Centre - Dublin -

JJB Sports Centre - Dundalk please call ph: 042 939 1300

Jackson's Hotel - Ballybofey, Donegal -

Sligo Regional Sports Centre - Sligo -

Kingfisher - Renmore, Galway -

Athlone Regional Centre - Athlone -

Coral Leisure - Killarney -

Sanovitae Leisure Centre - Cork City -

Sean Kelly Sports Centre - Carrick on Suir -

Waterfront Pool - Enniscorthy -

For information on Swim Ireland go to