Anne Marie Ward
In 2002 at the age of 35, with the stress of her job, Ward returned to swimming in the sea. She does not have any conventional coaching or pool work. Anne Marie developed an amazing endurance swimming ability and this unquestioning and natural ability to withstand conditions has brought her to supreme heights in endurance swimming. She is happier in the open ocean.
"It was very tough, but at no stage did I feel I was going to quit," Anne Marie said after big crowds at Magherarorty pier cheered her home. (Tory Island to Magheroarty 2003). This is a quote after an 8 hour 15 minute swim which should have been 6 hour, her longest swim before this was 2 hours and her fourth major swim - proof that she was gearing up for greatness.
Her First Swims
In the first year she started training for a 2-mile sea swim. The tides around North Donegal are very strong and can be hostile, but Ward showed immense comfort in the rough conditions. She is the first person to swim from Gola Island, off the west coast of Donegal, to Kincasslagh Pier, five miles away.
The first woman to swim the two-and-a-half miles from Arranmore Island to Burtonport.
Distance did not seem to be phasing her and as she and her team took on more challenging swims her comfort in extreme conditions was becoming apparent.
In 2003 Ward had hoped to complete the grueling 10 miles between Tory Island and Magheroarty in 6 hours hours, but had to contend with torrential rain, a thunderstorm, fork lightening and strong currents before finally making it ashore after a staggering 8 hours 15 minutes, non-stop swim, she did this in a wet suit on advice as it was her first long immersion. She was her one and only time wearing a wetsuit.
"It was very tough, but at no stage did I feel I was going to quit," Ward said, after big crowds at Magherarorty pier cheered her home.
Round Ireland Swim
2006 Round Ireland swim relay, a 830-mile circumnavigation around Ireland, the longest marathon staged relay in the world.
English Channel Swim
Her 2007 English Channel swim resulted in her receiving the Pierre van Varan Award for the best swim in arduous conditions as she finished the swim in a force 5/6.
Ward's North Channel journey was a three-year project. It was all about getting there. Since 2005, Ward has been surrounded by an amazing crew of divers and boatmen all who took on her swims as personal projects.
As each of the swimmers were withdrawn her crew were adamant that she was capable of driving forward and despite horrendous conditions Anne Marie finished in 20 hours 15 minutes.
North Channel Swim
The North Channel is one of the toughest channel swims in the world. Only 8 people in history had achieved this swim and few on their first crossing, this in mind Ward was willing to give it a go.
2008 North Channel Attempt
Water temperature at 12°C, starting at 3 am in the darkness, 17.5 hours swimming from Ireland to Scotland (North Channel) and taken out as the tides were pushing her backwards again.
Ward approached the North Channel like she approached every swim with the acceptance that she would go as far as she could or as far as her team would push her. She was very much aware that there was a lot to learn and after swimming for 17.5 hours it was the tides that got her, she was not weak inside. She was more disappointed that her crew had been let down.
2009 North Channel Attempt
2.5 hours into swimming North Channel when the weather turned and wind drove her up onto the Copeland islands at 3 am, her pilot boat was separated from her and finally she was rescued by her rib after spending time on her own behind the rocks as the waves hid her from her crew.
2010 North Channel Attempt
August: Ward tried once again to take on the North Channel, but trying to find a slot free of jellyfish was impossible so she dropped in anyway. This time with her own crew - they struggled to find a place to drop her into the water the water was filled with jellyfish. She swam for 5 hours solid until her joints seized up, she was unable to move her arms and legs and asked to be taken out. The toxins from the stings has seeped into her system and she was hospitalised in Belfast City Hospital. Despite the pain, her crew felt that they had got everything right with the exception of the jellyfish. They sat down and decided to try yet again.
September 2nd: 4 weeks later, Ward dropped in again and this time after 18 hours 59 minutes in 12°C, Ward reached Port Patrick in Scotland and became the first Irish woman and the 11th swimmer in history to swim this treacherous channel. The longest immersion by any swimmer in the freezing North Channel waters. The strength needed to drive deep knowing the pain that is involved is the true measure of an open water swimmer.
World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
In November 2010, Ward was selected and after a 2-month online poll on Open Water Source, Ward was awarded the title of [[World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year].
In June 2011, at the United Nations, Ward was honoured and gave a wonderful speech, bringing the swimming world into the world of an open water swimmer who trains by feel instead of program and coach.