After moving to Ireland in 1997 and taking up a job as a bus driver, Ion decided to participate in the Oceans Seven marathon – a swimming challenge consisting of seven open water channel races – to raise funds to rebuild what was left of the football field in his hometown of Braviceni, Moldova.
Born and raised in Braviceni, Ion and his peers were inspired by their physical education teacher and played lots of sports. Unfortunately, he started to feel like younger generations had lost this passion for sports — at least until very recently, when Ion decided to do something about it in his childhood village.
“I am thinking of this country, of its children and their potential,” Ion explained. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing them fulfill their potential.”
Ion came up with the idea to take part in the swimming competition after seeing Nejib Belhedi swim 1,400 km along the Tunisian coastline to support peacekeeping in Tunisia. He thought: “Why not do the same in Moldova?’’
In 2014, Ion began his Ocean Seven marathon, swimming through the Strait of Gibraltar and the English Channel. He crossed the Catalina and Molokalai Channels in 2016, before flying back to Moldova to inaugurate the football field renovated with the money he raised from the sporting challenge.
In 2018, just days after turning 40, Ion completed the entire Oceans Seven challenge. He is the eighth person to have completed the challenge, the second from Ireland and the first from Moldova.
“If today, 1 out of 10 people who left my village would give back to the community, my village would look like Switzerland,” Ion concluded.