He may have only taken up swimming at 17 years of age but earlier this month Warren Roche won the gold medal in the 10k race at the inaugural Waterfest Championships at Cossan Point, Athlone, Co Westmeath.
The Championships, organised by Swim Ireland and the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association, included a 5k and 10k national championship, a swim for a mile challenge and a 750m swim.
The Waterford Crystal swimmer told the Munster Express he only took up swimming to help with the stress of his Leaving Cert in 2008 but enjoyed it so much he decided to get really involved in the sport.
“I thought swimming would really help me cope with the stress of doing the Leaving Cert but from day one I really enjoyed it. I was asked by a friend and fellow swimmer Colm Breathnach to take part in a 24 hour swim in the Kingfisher and after that I met up with Brian Williamson who asked me to join the Waterford Crystal Swimming Club”.
After only two years in the club Roche won the bronze medal in the 800m at the National Championships in Lisburn but then decided to turn his attention to open water swimming.
“I switched to Open Water and two years ago won silver in the 10k event at the National Championships in Newry. Last year however things didn’t go too well. The water was way too cold and I suffered from hypothermia. I really wanted to give it another go though and while on a training camp to Majorca in June I decided to put everything into getting it right this year”.
Coach Brian William devised a plan of action including getting nutrition, physio, rest and recreation just right and following months of training six days a week Roche was rewarded with the gold medal.
“I can’t stress enough how encouraging and supportive Brian Williamson has been. The training was tough, three hours a day, six days a week and that doesn’t include all the gym sessions but he was always there encouraging me all the way and helping me along.
In preparation for the Championships Roche trained mostly in the pool and explained the reasons behind that strategy.
“For an event like a 10k swim mental strength and preparation is as important as anything else. Swimming endless lengths in the pool is very repetitive but once you know you can do the distance transferring to the sea is actually easier. I only trained about ten per cent of the time in the sea and that was to get used to the water temperature and conditions”.
Roche intends to begin his Masters studies at UCD next month but is equally focused on swimming.
“While I will need to focus on my studies I hope to join the swim team at UCD. I love the idea of long distance racing and bearing in mind the average competitive age of a distance swimmer is 32 I have a few years to go yet hopefully. In the immediate future my time for the 10k is within the qualifying standard for the European Championships so hopefully Swim Ireland will ratify that”.