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Mel Week Swimmer Melanie Nocher says Ultimate Hell Week turned out to be a 'life raft'

"I'm a mum of two girls and that is the best thing I've ever done. This show for me has made me a better mum."

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Melanie Nocher. Picture: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile

Melanie Nocher. Picture: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile

Melanie Nocher

Melanie Nocher

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Melanie Nocher. Picture: Brian Lawless / Sportsfile

Former Olympic swimmer Melanie Nocher has revealed RTÉ's Ultimate Hell Week was a life raft that kept her afloat after years of feeling 'grey and invisible'.

Blazing a trail on RTÉ's survival series, the Co. Down native is now the last woman standing as the gruelling course draws to a gritty finale.

Despite a failure rate upwards of 90% the 33-year-old mum-of-two has risen to each and every hellish challenge that has been specifically designed by former members of Ireland's elite Special Forces.

Now the sports star wants to encourage women that there is no challenge in life that they cannot overcome.

"I'm a mum of two girls and that is the best thing I've ever done. This show for me has made me a better mum. I'm a better person because of what I have learned about myself and how strong I am. It sounds cheesy but it is the truth."

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Melanie Nocher, from Hollywood, Co. Down, on her way to achieving Olympic qualification during the Women's 200m Backstroke Final.  Photo: Sportsfile

Melanie Nocher, from Hollywood, Co. Down, on her way to achieving Olympic qualification during the Women's 200m Backstroke Final. Photo: Sportsfile

Melanie Nocher, from Hollywood, Co. Down, on her way to achieving Olympic qualification during the Women's 200m Backstroke Final. Photo: Sportsfile

Alongside the two-time Olympian, this year's Celebrity Hell Week line-up features well-known Irish personalities from the world of sports and entertainment, female celebrities included Irish international footballer Stephanie Roche, Dancing With The Stars pro Laura Nolan and lifestyle influencer Niamh Cullen who were each forced to tap out of the intensive programme.

"I know they said a woman has never passed the course but the women on the team proved so many people wrong. You had Laura who is a dancer and there were probably stereotypes that she wasn't going to be able to do it and she absolutely kicked some butt. Stephanie was so strong, such a trouper, and then you have Niamh, a tiny little thing coming through - it was it was really empowering. I've never been more proud to be a woman."

Melanie who lives in Leicestershire with her husband Ben and their two children, Jessica (three) and Freya (two) said she wanted to show her little girls that anything is possible.

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Melanie Nocher

Melanie Nocher

Melanie Nocher

"I tell my girls all the time, 'you are strong and you can do whatever you want to do.' That's the message I want to get out, women can do whatever they put their mind to."

On Wednesday's episode, six contestants crashed out of the competition in what was one of the most physically and mentally challenging tests on the show to date.

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Tasked with climbing some of Ireland's highest peaks, the retired swimmer was forced to carry 50kg of kit on her back as she took on the treacherous mountain course.

"It was genuinely the hardest thing I have done in my life - I would take childbirth over that.

"But you can't train for that type of challenge. You can't deprive yourself of sleep for three days prior, you can't give yourself minimal calories. You were constantly on a state of high alert.

"Your bum was twitching like who is going to come into this room?

"And even when you're sleeping, will I be dipped into a well or will a bomb go off? It was constant battering.

"There was no lines or scripts, you are stripped back and everything about this is raw."

Praised for her tenacity and strength, the sports star revealed she was on a mission to prove herself after a bout of gastroenteritis eviscerated her Olympic dreams in London in 2012 - a loss she still grapples with today.

"When I got the call I was a bit like why do you want me I'm not famous enough, I'm not relevant enough? It's terrible but I thought God have they asked other people and everybody else said no?

"I was so involved and potentially running away from my previous life because I was ashamed of it. I think I almost jumped into this new life and this new identity; a different surname or being a mum and living in England, nobody really knowing who I was.

"I became just this grey version of myself. I absolutely adore my family, but I didn't realise how much I lost myself until I did this," Melanie said.

Praising the life-changing impact of the series, she revealed:

"I got home from the show and I went up into the room where I left my Olympic torch that I ran with before the Olympics, and I put it on the wall. I left that in a storeroom for nearly 10 years. I couldn't look at it," Melanie said.

"There's no one picture of the Olympics in the house. I just wanted to almost ignore it and not deal with it and put it under the carpet.

"That's all changed now, and it may sound strange but this show is like winning gold for me."

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