The UK’s first Gladiators Champion is set to take on a mammoth 24 hour ‘row-a-thon' challenge to raise money for Red Nose Day.
Weininger Irwin, from Barking and Dagenham, east London, will celebrate his 59th birthday on Friday by taking on the epic challenge on an indoor rowing machine at the Indoor Liberty Shopping Centre in Romford. From 6pm on Friday 17th March until 6pm on the 18th, the day of Red Nose Day, he will row for 24 hours, with only a five-minute break every hour for, toilet breaks food and water.
He is pushing himself to the limit to raise money for Red Nose Day, and to raise awareness knife crime after a friend of his lost their son to knife crime, an issue he says is “killing our communities”.
Weininger said: "A month won’t go past when we don’t hear about another stabbing victim in London. Our youngsters need someone to be a beacon of light for them and to get people talking about this issue.
“For years and years, I have wanted to do something for Red Nose Day, and after this pandemic I thought ‘there’s no time like the present’. Everything that Comic Relief is doing in regards to violence and poverty, it all aligns to the issues I want to talk about."
He added: “It’s nothing for me to do what I’m doing. Twenty-four hours is going to be hard, but if I can use my athleticism for a good cause then that is a fantastic opportunity.”
The 58-year-old also wants to raise awareness of prostrate cancer after was diagnosed with the disease two years ago and is now cancer free after an operation last year.
He added: “With prostate cancer, I want people to know it is all about early detection. There is a 94% survival rate if the disease is caught early. And if what I am doing can help raise awareness of prostate cancer and knife crime, all while raising money for Comic Relief, then that is a wonderful thing.”
The challenge is a huge undertaking for Weininger, but he admits he has always had a passion for fitness. It was this that helped him win the first ever series of ITV hit show Gladiators in 1992. Now a Community Exercise Officer, he also founded his own business, Cool Rowings, which aims to diversify the sport and introduce as many young people to rowing as possible.
In this spirit, Weininger will have two further indoor rowing machines, known as ergometers, alongside him when he takes on his 24 hour ‘row-a-thon' on Thursday and Friday. He hopes that members of the public will also get involved and row alongside him to cheer him on. Members of a local senior rowing club will also be coming down to support him on the day, along with schoolchildren from Mayfield School and Robert Clack School, both in Barking and Dagenham, and Urswick School in Hackney.
Weininger said: “I want everyone in the community to feel included, so I want lots of people and passersby to join in. I’m celebrating my birthday by giving, so what a lovely gift if people are able to donate a £1 or whatever else they can.”
Money raised by Red Nose Day will help people in the UK and around the world live free from poverty, violence and discrimination, and support people with their mental health. Donations will also help to fund organisations providing essential support for people in Ukraine affected by the terrifying conflict and those attempting to cross the border to safety.
Samir Patel, Chief Executive of Comic Relief, says: “What’s so special about Red Nose Day is that it brings people from all over the UK together to make a big difference. We are so thankful for the incredible support from our fundraisers because whatever you do, big or small, helps people live free from poverty, violence and discrimination.
“This includes funding organisations that are supporting people right now in Ukraine, and on the borders. So whether you buy a Red Nose, bake cakes, smash a challenge or simply pick up the phone to donate, you have the power to change lives across the world and in the UK.”