A MAN who could not swim seven months ago has completed one of the toughest triathlons in the country to raise £1,800 in memory of a friend who died from injuries sustained playing rugby union.

Kevin McConnell, 29, of Manchester Road, Tyldesley, was determined to learn how to swim and pass the Ironman UK challenge on Sunday in aid of The Christopher Tickle Fund.

His friend Christopher died at the age of 23 of a severe next injury sustained in a scrum while playing for Eccles Rugby Football Club.

Kevin, who was one of 2,500 triathletes from around the world tackling a gruelling 2.4-mile swim at Pennington Flash, a 112-mile cycle and a 26.2-mile run on Sunday, said: “It has been a physical and mental whirlwind to get this far but I could not be more chuffed with the support I have received and the fact I have done this in memory of a good friend of mine.

“I was friends with Christopher from around the age of 16 so it was a huge blow to me when he died so suddenly.

“The Ironman was a huge personal challenge but I wanted to do it to raise awareness and money for Christopher’s fund.

"Plus now I know how to swim.”

With the fund having teamed up with the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation, all money raised in Christopher’s goes towards research into life-saving treatments.

Christopher’s dad Keith Tickle, 63, of Hough Lane, Tyldesley, said: “What Kevin has done means so much.

“It was an unbelievably difficult task for him and to see him complete it in Christopher's memory is wonderful.

“If the money raised can help others by supporting research into cures and treatments for spinal injuries then it will have all been worthwhile.”

Kevin trained for the Ironman triathlon for seven months and was delighted to complete the course in 13 hours, with the two laps of Pennington Flash swimming section taking him just an hour and 22 minutes.

To make a donation visit justgiving.com/fundraising/kevin-ironman1.