Natural born swimmer at ease in the ocean


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WATER BABY: Port Douglas athlete Irene Cats on Four Mile Beach ahead of the Green Island Ocean Swim tomorrow. IMAGE: Newsport.

PORT Douglas swimmer Irene Cats has always had a thing for water.

Even as a five-year-old toddler back in her native Holland, the Port Douglas Surf Life Saving Club member says she felt at ease with a swim-cap and goggles on.

Now a Port Douglas local of seven years with her own Swimfit business, the ambitious 32-year-old is preparing to compete in her fourth Green Island Ocean Swim tomorrow as part of the Cairns Adventure Festival.

“I just love being in the water and especially the ocean,” Irene said.

“Nothing can distract you, it’s just you and the ocean. I quickly learned that this is not the case for many people and some triathletes in particular, which is why I started Swimfit.”

Irene was working in marketing for the Sheraton group in Europe before deciding to travel to Australia in 2007. She was offered a role with the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas and quickly fell in love with the tropical lifestyle of the region.

“Port Douglas is such a beautiful place for swimming and ocean swimming,” she says.

“I loved being part of my local swim club in the Netherlands and have many happy memories about this time in my life, but since moving here I’ve never looked back.

“You can’t beat the weather and the natural beauty of this place. I’ve never wanted to leave.”

After finishing second overall in 3km Green Island Ocean Swim last year, Irene looks well placed tomorrow. She won the Sydney Harbour Ocean Swim in April and was too strong for the field in the Crater Lake Classic at Lake Barrine last month.

“I’ve had a great lead in to this event with consistent training under my coach Ben Eagle and a couple of good results,” she said.

“With the Cairns Adventure Festival being such a big event, and attracting athletes from all over the world, you never know who will show up on race day.

“I know I’m ready for a good race and I’ll just do my best.”

The Green Island event is one of the most popular of its kind in Australia given its location on the Great Barrier Reef. Port Douglas swimmers Kelly McNamara, John Goodman, Michael Bolt, Grant Knight, Sophie Knight, Mitchell Knight and Ed Lukin will also be competing.

“We all get on the same boat early in the morning to get there and I just love meeting other ocean swimmers from all over the world,” Irene explained.

“While swimming the race you can actually see coral, fish and sometimes even a turtle, it’s pretty distracting really.

“But it makes it a lot of fun.”

And that’s something she’s always had once her feet touch the water.

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