A FORMER Australian Olympic swimmer who now lives in Kilwinning made a little bit of history in his home nation when he swam the English Channel recently.

Rob Woodhouse, 56, became the first Australian Olympic medalist to complete a solo Channel crossing in the process, as he reached the French coast in a time of 10 hours and 45 minutes.

Rob, who is now a sports agent to the likes of Adam Peaty, Becky Adlington and Chris Hoy, won Olympic bronze in the 400m individual medley at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

He also claimed three silver medals across two Commonwealth Games in his time as a competitive athlete.

But his challenge, on August 6, was nothing to do with sporting achievements, it was all about raising money and awareness for good causes.

Rob has decided to split his fund-raising into two different avenues, one back in Australia, and one here in North Ayrshire.

In the Southern Hemisphere, he is raising money for is Australian cancer research organisation Can Too. He is aiming to raise 25,000 AUD (just over £14,500) and has already raised a staggering 22,685 AUD (£13,215). This fundraising page can be found here.

Back here in Scotland, he is trying to raise funds for North Ayrshire Swimming Club.

Explaining why he decided to lend the club his support, Rob said: “I saw, before Covid, it was a really healthy, thriving club and like so many sports clubs, struggled through Covid.

“The club has almost had to start again. I see the beginnings now of a really enthusiastic group of kids, coaches and parents and I wanted to do something to support them and encourage them and hopefully inspire them a little bit."

The former Olympian has already raised well above his £5,000 target, reaching almost one and a haldtimes that figure so far - £7,263.

You can still donate to Rob's funrasier here.

The swim itself was a mighty effort, even for a former top level athlete like Rob, who  began his swim in total darkness at 3.23am on England's south coast.

Rob Woodhouse had great conditions for his channel swim.Rob began his swim in pure darkness

He commented: “The first few hours were in the dark, so that was an interesting experience, pitch black darkness in the ocean, but once the sun came up it was a lovely day.”

For those opening hours, Rob was guided by the boat which followed him for the duration, and the lgiht illuminating it and the surrounding ocean.

Despite a history in pool swimming, Rob acknowledged that this challenge provided something that could never prepare him for, though his upbringing in Australia did.

He continued: “It’s hard to compare it to pool swimming, when I done that, it was so long ago anyway.

“When I lived in Australia I swam a lot in the ocean, not so much at night, but I’ve been used to sort of rough conditions and stuff like that.

“I’ve lived a lot of my life near the beach so that certainly helped.”

It wasn't the physical exhaustion which provided the only challenge for Rob though. He also had to cope with the whole swim battling his own thoughts.

He commented: "You don’t know how long it’s going to take, for me it was about the process, forgetting about the fact I was swimming to France as much as possible and just thinking about swimming half an hour at a time.”

Rob spent a lot of his preparations focussing on the mental battle, as he trained at 'Booker's Pond' as it is known in Irvine.

He continued: “The last three months I did a lot of swimming in the Loch (Booker’s pond). There’s some turning buoys in there - it’s a course of about 750 metres so I did a lot of swimming in there.

“I was usually by myself, just doing laps, I was swimming from two up to three and a half hours, eventually swimming every day.

“Just that solitude, being by myself, I kind of got used to it."

All his preparations came to fruition when he returned to dry land after 10 hours and 45 minutes, confirming himself as a history maker, the first Australian Olypmic medalist to solo swim 'La Manche'.

Rob Woodhouse had great conditions for his channel swim.A jubilant Rob celebrates after completing the swim. He said "pass me a beer now" on social media!

“That’s a big thing," he added, "and quite surprising to be honest, given the number of Australians that swim the Channel, so I guess that’s a nice little honour to have.

“But to me it was mostly about the personal goal more than anything else and being able to do the fund-raising.

“I’m thrilled to have done it, and did really enjoy it, it’s nice to be back here in North Ayrshire now enjoying the sun.”