The swim of her life

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On February 17, 2020, 16-year-old Caitlin O’Reilly became the youngest person to claim the triple crown of marathon swimming in New Zealand. She had swum Cook Strait at 12 and crossed Lake Taupō at 14. All that remained was Foveaux Strait.

O’Reilly set off from Rakiura/Stewart Island at 10.40am and powered north under the watchful eye of open-water swimming legend Phil Rush and skipper Zane Smith (whose father piloted Meda McKenzie across Foveaux in 1979). Despite encountering tidal chop near the finish, O’Reilly reached the mainland at sunset, covering the 27-kilometre distance in just over 10 hours. Only five other people have attained the triple crown; O’Reilly became interested in the feat after her coach mentioned swimming Cook Strait. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool, maybe I’ll do that’,” she says, “and so I did.”

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