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Christine Bleakley
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Wing Walking and Waterskiing the English Channel

Christine Bleakley is a successful television personality who does not shrink from challenges. Christine was born 2 February 1979 and is an Irish television presenter from Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. She is a former co-presenter of BBC One's The One Show and a former contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. She joined Daybreak on ITV as co-presenter with Adrian Chiles in September 2010. Bleakley started her television career as a runner and then trained to become a floor manager while studying for her A-Levels at Bloomfield Collegiate School in Ballyhackamore, Belfast. She continued to work at BBC NI while studying for a political science degree at Queen's University, Belfast. She did not complete her degree course, however, instead moving into television work full time.

In addition to presenting Daybreak, Bleakley is hosting quiz show Control and a number of entertainment specials, including Simply Red: For the Last Time and Duran Duran: For One Night Only. Bleakley decided to undertake the challenge of water-skiing across the English Channel following a trip to Uganda with Sport Relief in 2008. To do this she had to overcome her childhood fear of water to water-ski across the English Channel – raising more than £250,000 for charity despite falling in eight times.

"I was in a swimming pool on holiday and I went under the water and my dad pulled me out and managed to get me back to life again. That's why I haven't gone near the water since. I can swim about one length and that's it so I've had to overcome a lot of personal fears. It's scary when you're out there on the Channel and you see 8 foot waves alongside you, and the swell that stops your view of even the boat that's in front of you. And there's a huge amount of waves created off the back of the huge ships that go across the Channel too - So it was just incredible – it's very difficult to put into words."

In order to waterski the English Channel Christine had an average speed of 20mph and skied a total distance of 21 miles in water temperatures of 5 degrees C with a wind chill factor of -1 degree C. She set off from Dover at 7:46am after days of delays due to poor weather, then had to dodge tankers during the 21-mile route across the world's busiest shipping lane, and endure temperatures of just 5C (41F), with a wind chill below freezing. She said the repeated postponements were "like waiting for an operation".

"Halfway through, I thought 'I can't do this' because everything was starting to give," she said. "I had searing pain in my lower back, my legs were starting to wobble, and my hands – I just couldn't hold on any longer. But I managed to get the strength from somewhere and I can't quite believe I've done it."

The One Show presenter says: “Going to Uganda made me re-focus everything else going on in my life. When you see how people live there, any problems back home are put in perspective. It made me realise just how good I’ve got it, it made me appreciate that you only live once. It’s so easy to get swept up in yourself but there’s always someone worse off than yourself. I have to admit that at first I wanted to get out of going. I thought I was going to find it really tough and I just wanted to be at home. But I’m so relieved I went because it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

After the crossing of the English Channel on waterskis her next challenge was to take to the skies for her another daredevil feat. Strapped to the top of a 1930s-designed Boeing Stearman airplane, the 32-year-old 'wing-walked' high above the Gloucestershire countryside. The stunt was to promote the release of the 3D animated movie Rio, which tells the story of a bird who is unable to fly. Christine later shared her feelings on the "insane" experience, calling it exhilarating and terrying all at once.

"Brave or stupid? I'm not sure which if I'm being honest," she laughed.

In November 2010, Bleakley was awarded the title 'Top TV Host' at the 2010 Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women of the Year Awards. On 20 March 2010, Bleakley made her stand-up comedy debut when she took part in Channel 4's Comedy Gala, a benefit show in aid of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London. Christine is a patron of the CineMagic Children's Film Festival and is Northern Ireland ambassador for The Prince's Trust.

Christine's profile at ITV:

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