A SOUTH Yorkshire teenager is braving treacherous currents, ferries, giant jellyfish and sharks as she swims the Irish Sea for charity with a shoal of celebrities - including Ronan Keating, writes Graham Walker.
Nikki Fraser, of Penistone, beat more than 30 swimmers to net one of just two public places on The Swim, a unique showbiz relay team challenge aiming to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK.
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The super-fit 18-year old joined the team after gruelling swimming trials, including a two hour swim off the coast of Brighton.
Now Nikki, one of five super swimmers, is taking part in the 40-hour adventure of a lifetime led by boyband idol Keating, with comedienne Pamela Stephenson, TV presenter Jenny Frost, The Gadget Show host Jason Bradbury and Olympic medallist swimmer Steve Parry.
They are tackling 65-miles of the Irish Sea from Holyhead to Dublin in one-hour relay sessions, which they aim to complete late on Thursday, September 1.
All have loved ones who have had cancer. Nikki’s 84-year-old granddad is doing well after trteatment for his second bout.
She said: “I love a challenge, I feel right at home in the sea, the only thing I don’t like is jelly fish. The fact I’m getting to do this with celebrities makes it even more exciting. My sister Catriona thinks it’s brilliant because she’s a Ronan Keating fan.”
Keating, aged 34, said he was mostly spending his hour-long stints swallowing sea water and avoiding “alien-like” jellyfish.
“I’m not one of the advanced swimmers so I’m concentrating on my swimming, my breathing and keeping my body moving,” he said.
“We’ve talked about it for 12 months but it was finally happening, it was an incredible moment.”
He came up with the idea with Sir Richard Branson, who was also due to take part in the relay but pulled out at the weekend after his Caribbean home on Necker Island burned to the ground.
All the celebrity swimmers taking part have loved ones who have had cancer.
Keating, Frost and Stephenson lost their mothers to the disease and Bradbury’s brother was diagnosed with skin cancer earlier this year.
Parry, 34, who won an Olympic bronze in 2008, found out he had testicular cancer 18 months ago, three weeks after getting married.
He said the relay was more of a mental challenge than a physical test.
“Your mind starts to play tricks,” he said.
“You worry about sharks, or jellyfish surrounding you or the canoeist moving away.”
Nicki Embleton Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire said: “Swimming across the Irish Sea will be physically and emotionally demanding– even in a relay team. So we’re calling on people in Yorkshire to show their support for Nikki and The Swim team.”
You can sponsor Nikki at www.virginmoneygiving.com/NikkiFraser