The First Woman to Swim the English Channel Beat the Men’s Record by Two Hours

The First Woman to Swim the English Channel Beat the Men’s Record by Two Hours

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“ENGLAND OR DROWN!” proclaimed the New York Daily News on its frontpages. It was August 6, 1926, the day that an American, Gertrude Ederle, was poised to become the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Only five men had ever swum the waterway before. The challenges included quickly changing tides, six-foot waves, frigid temperatures and lots of jellyfish. That day, Ederle not only made it across, she beat all of the previous men’s times—swimming 35 miles in 14 and a half hours.

Ederle was born in October 1905 to German immigrants in New York City. She learned to swim at the local public pool and the New Jersey beach, and dropped out of school when she was a teenager to swim competitively. She joined the Women’s Swimming Association and won her first local competition award at age 16. Two years later, she made it to the 1924 Olympics.

“America was at the forefront of the world of swimming and women swimming,” says Gavin Mortimer, author of The Great Swim. “She was at just the right age to capitalize on it. And clearly, she had a very competitive streak.”

The 18-year-old Ederle hoped to win three Olympic gold medals at the 1924 Paris Games, and was disappointed to receive only one gold in her team event and two bronze medals in her singles events. But while she was abroad, she got an idea for what she wanted to do next: swim the channel between France and England.

She first tried to cross the English Channel in 1925, but didn’t make it all the way across. The English press claimed she was disqualified because someone in the support boat that followed her across the water had touched her (support boat riders could give her food and drink but couldn’t touch her). However, Mortimer says the British press invented this story out of a sense of national rivalry.

“It was really just that they got the tide wrong and she hadn’t prepared for it enough,” he says. “You’ve got this ebb and flow tide, which changes every five to six hours. So you don’t swim in a straight line; you’ve got to zig zag to go with the tide.”

Her trainer Bill Burgess, the second person ever to swim the channel, told her to quit when he thought she struggling too much to continue.

“She claimed that her trainer made her quit, that she would have gone on to swim it,” says Tim Dahlberg, co-author of America’s Girl: The Incredible Story of How Swimmer Gertrude Ederle Changed the Nation. “But it just made her all the more determined to come back in 1926 and actually do it.” (In addition, her father promised her a red roadster if she made it across.)

When Ederle arrived the next year to try again at age 20, she was better prepared to follow the tides. Crucially, she also had eschewed the traditional bathing suit that she’d worn last time for a practical one she designed herself.

Women’s bathing suits were basically wool dresses with stockings and shoes when they emerged in the late 19th century. Reformers argued that these suits were heavy and unsafe, but many women continued to wear them because skimpier suits were taboo, and possibly illegal. In 1907, police at Boston’s Revere Beach arrested an Australian swimmer named Annette Kellerman for wearing a one-piece suit that showed her bare legs.

During Ederle’s first attempt across the channel, she wore a heavy one-piece that filled with water and chaffed her skin. But on August 6, 1926, she arrived at the French end of the channel wearing a lighter two-piece she’d fashioned by cutting up a one-piece. “She was so slathered in grease and such that it was hardly recognizable,” Dahlberg notes.

Her support boat was packed with chicken legs, oranges and vegetable chicken soup to sustain her on her journey to from Cape Gris-Nez in France to Dover, England. Reporters also followed her by boat, turning her swim into an all-day media event.

“They use wireless for really the first time like a play-by-play sports event,” says Dahlberg, who is also a sports writer for the Associated Press. “They had a wireless machine aboard the tug that was accompanying her, and they would send reports to London to the newspapers on where she was, how she was doing.”

The wireless messages allowed newspapers to update Ederle’s progress in different editions published throughout the day. When she arrived on the shore of Kingsdown, near Deal, England that evening, there was a crowd of people waiting to welcome her because they’d read she was getting close.

One journalist following her by boat was so eager to get his story in he jumped into the water and headed to the nearest pub to file it over the phone. Ederle, meanwhile, was so exhausted she could barely lift herself up on the beach.

“She’s been described at the end of the swim as looking like a boxer,” Mortimer says “because the water clobbers her face. She was all bruised. And also her tongue had swelled up so much because of the salt water, she could hardly speak.” In addition, she had some jellyfish stings.

Back in the U.S., two million people greeted Ederle with New York City’s first ticker-tape parade to honor a woman. President Calvin Coolidge dubbed her “America’s best girl,” and her father bought her that red roadster. “She had this few months of being the most famous person in the world,” Mortimer says.

That fame was eclipsed in May 1927, when Charles Lindbergh flew an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Compared to this technological feat, Ederle’s seemed old fashioned.

“He became the new hero,” Mortimer says. “She was almost like a relic overnight.”

Even so, Ederle’s achievement made a lasting contribution to women’s sports during a decade in which gender roles were shifting. In the early ‘20s, American golf champion Edith Cummings became the first female athlete on the cover of Time, French tennis star Suzanne Lenglen dominated Wimbledon and Ederle proved a woman could best a man in one of the most physically demanding swims in the world.

Her accomplishments paved the way for other female swimmers. The next four people to successfully swim the channel after her were all women. Ederle held onto her title of fastest English Channel swim until 1951, when a woman named Winnie Roach-Leuszler—the first Canadian to swim the channel—beat her by about an hour. In 2019, Colorado swimmer Sarah Thomas bested previous efforts by becoming the first person to swim the distance between England and France four times without stopping, swimming for over 50 hours.

She was the First Woman to Swim Across the English Channel

Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003), at age 15, became the first woman to swim the length of New York Bay and, in 1924, won three medals at the Paris Olympics. The German American athlete rocketed to international stardom in 1926, at age 20, as the first woman to swim across the English Channel, a feat only five men had completed, then considered one of the toughest endurance tests in the world. Wearing a revolutionary two-piece bathing suit and goggles she designed herself, for 14½ hours, Ederle battled 21 miles of frigid water and treacherous tides, beating the fastest man’s existing record by nearly two hours — the first time in sporting history that a woman had completed an event in a faster time than a man. Dubbed “Queen of the Waves” and “America’s Best Girl,” her accomplishment helped to demonstrate that women could be great athletes and challenged conventional wisdom about women as “the weaker sex.” Ederle’s hearing, which had already been damaged by a childhood case of measles, severely worsened after swimming the English Channel and left her “stone deaf,” in her words. Unable to compete in swim meets, Ederle briefly toured the U.S. on the vaudeville circuit. Later in life, she taught swimming to deaf children in New York City.

Interviewees: historian Linda J. Borish, Associate Professor of History, Western Michigan University and Co-Author of Sports in American History: From Colonization to Globalization two-time Olympic medalist Lia Neal, the first African American woman to swim in an Olympic final for the United States.

Gertrude Ederle's accomplishments were not only in the water, as an Olympic swimmer and the first woman to swim the English Channel, but she also had a huge impact on the American landscape.

1924, Paris, France. 19-year-old Gertrude Ederle competed for the U.S. women's swim team at the Summer Olympics.

When the modern Olympics were founded in 1896, those games featured no women competitors.

Then in 1900, you had five events for women: tennis, golf, croquet, equestrianism, and sailing.

1912 was the first time women were included in aquatic sports: swimming and diving.

She won the gold medal in the 4x100 relay freestyle, and also won two bronze medals.

'The Olympic races? I had to swim like hell. When we're in the water, we're not in this world.'. Gertrude Ederle was born in 1905 in New York City, to a German immigrant family that owned a butcher shop.

Her father taught her to swim in a river when she was nine by tying a rope around her waist.

When Gertrude Ederle got measles as a youngster, she had complications that led to her being hard of hearing, and swimming did not help the hearing issue.

'The doctors told me my hearing would get worse if I continued swimming, but I loved the water so much, I just couldn't stop.'. Ederle dropped out of school in her early teens to train as a swimmer year-round.

I think the family support was tremendous, especially from the father.

Most youngsters, if they dropped out of school, it was to work to help support the income of the families. Here she was, focusing singularly on swimming.

Society viewed women as the weaker sex, that they were biologically less able to have physical courage and withstand the rigors of competition.

Some male doctors even called them 'maternally-wounded women,' that too much physical effort might harm women's roles of childbearing.

So there was a real limit to what women were encouraged to do in the area of sport.

In 1918, Ederle joined a women's team and began to swim competitively.

The Women's Swimming Association was founded by Charlotte Epstein in 1917, and it's really one of the first athletic organizations founded by women to promote women's competitive sport. They had a male coach, Louis de Breda Handley, a former Olympian, who believed that women could and should swim. And this led to competitions, once the amateur athletic union allowed women to compete in the 1910s.

'To me, the sea is like a person - like a child that I've known a long time. It sounds crazy, I know, but when I swim in the sea, I talk to it.

I never feel alone when I'm out there.'. By the age of 20, Ederle had set 29 world records in women's freestyle, including a long distance race from New York to New Jersey.

Gertrude Ederle swam the 22 miles in 7 hours and 11 minutes.

And that record stood for over 80 years. So she was short distance, long distance, all around champion swimmer.

I can't think of anyone that would be able to do that right now.

That's very unique. I'm Lia Neal, and I'm a two-time Olympian. I joined a swim team when I was eight, and I've been swimming competitively since then.

The national team changes every year with who's the fastest in the country right now. At the Olympics in 2012, in London, I became the first African American woman to swim on a finals on the 400 free relay. And making the 2016 Olympics, I also became the first African American woman to make two Olympics in swimming.

I was just like tunnel vision, not really setting any limits on myself, constantly climbing the ladder.

In 1925, with sponsorships from the Women's Swimming Association, Ederle set her sights on the ultimate endurance test, to swim across the English Channel.

Men had been doing it, and five men had succeeded.

Women had tried, but no one had done it successfully.

'Five men have succeeded, why not a woman?

Surely in the athletic club we are near equal in endurance!'. We have to remember, women barely got the right to vote in 1920.

And so Ederle was trying to demonstrate physical emancipation.

But the risks involved were enormous.

You had the huge waves, the cold temperature, the jellyfish, and often the winds would come up and blow you off course.

So it was a huge physical endeavor that most thought men would barely survive, let alone a woman.

Ederle set off from a beach in France, determined to conquer the 21-mile swim.

'I'm all ready for it. Bring on your old channel.'. She used the freestyle and most swimmers had used the breaststroke.

But she seemed to move through the water quite rapidly, and initially seemed to be doing well.

But a huge wave came up, and her coach, from the tugboat following, her said, 'Gertrude, you should get out.' He touched her, which was a violation.

And so the swim stopped and she was furious because she could have kept going, she thought.

'My motto is, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

I am going to attempt to swim the English Channel again next July.'. Ederle hired a new coach and spent a year training at least four hours a day.

She also designed her own goggles and a more aerodynamic swimsuit.

In the late 19th, early 20th century, women at beaches and in pools were told to cover up.

They needed to wear full-length skirts, often stockings or bloomers, and that limits mobility in the water. Ederle revolutionized swimming with her sporting costume.

On August 6th, 1926, at 7 am, Ederle set off from the coast of France a second time.

She slathered herself in grease to protect against the cold water and jellyfish stings.

'Don't let anybody take me out of the water unless I ask. Promise me, England or bust.'. Two tugboats kept pace - one carrying her family and fans, the other, reporters from a newspaper which sponsored the swim.

When she was getting some food, she would rest on her back.

She would have broth, sugar cubes, and chocolate.

The people on the boat began singing to her.

There was nothing that was going to stop her this time.

14 Hours and 39 minutes later, 20-year-old Gertrude Ederle arrived on the British shore.

She was not only the first woman to swim the English Channel, but she beat the existing men's record by two hours.

'I'll bet all the women in the world will celebrate tonight.

It's up with the women and down with the men.'. When Ederle came back, New York City gave her a huge ticker tape parade and there were over 2 million people who lined the streets and docks to be a part of this.

She had nicknames like 'Queen of the Waves' or 'The Grease Smeared-Venus.'

She was one of the first women to visit the White House, and President Calvin Coolidge, he referred her as 'America's Best Girl.'

There was a short film made about Ederle and there were songs devoted to her.

Ederle wiped out misconceptions about women being weak.

Even though most Americans didn't swim before, Ederle's sudden fame inspired more than 60,000 women in the U.S. to earn Red Cross swimming certificates in the 1920s.

She toured the country on the vaudeville circuit for two years, demonstrating her skills in a portable tank.

However, as a result of the overwhelming pressure of press attention, Ederle suffered what doctors then called a 'nervous breakdown.'

The Channel's swim had also significantly worsened her hearing.

She retired from the sport in 1928, at age 22.

'I finally got the shakes. I was just a bundle of nerves.

I had to quit and I was stone-deaf.'. In her fifties, Ederle taught swimming at a school for deaf children in New York City.

It's amazing that she, being faced with becoming deaf, ultimately served other generations and shared her gift.

There aren't very many women coaches.

So I think it's up to us pioneers to give back to our communities that are less privileged, to let them know that this is an option.

As long as you race your heart out and work hard enough for it, you'll get it.

Elderle died in 2003, at the age of 98, after being inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Gertrude Ederle is part of this long legacy of pioneers in sport, where women compete and succeed.

She certainly kicked down the doors for Olympic participation, by showing that women, given the opportunity, can break down barriers and achieve sometimes even more than men.

'When somebody tells me I cannot do something, that's when I do it. People said women couldn't swim the Channel, but I proved they could.'


Gertrude Ederle was born on October 23, 1905, in Manhattan, New York City. She was the third of six children and the daughter of German immigrants, Gertrude Anna Haberstroh and Henry Ederle. [5] [6] According to a biography of Ederle, America's Girl, her father ran a butcher shop on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan. Her father taught her to swim in Highlands, New Jersey, where the family owned a summer cottage.

Ederle trained at the Women's Swimming Association (WSA), which produced such competitors as Ethelda Bleibtrey, Charlotte Boyle, Helen Wainwright, Aileen Riggin, Eleanor Holm and Esther Williams. Her yearly dues of $3 allowed her to swim at the tiny Manhattan indoor pool. But, according to America's Girl, "the WSA was already the center of competitive swimming, a sport that was becoming increasingly popular with the evolution of a bathing suit that made it easier to get through the water." The director, Charlotte "Eppy" Epstein, had already urged the AAU to endorse women's swimming as a sport in 1917 and in 1919 pressured the AAU to "allow swimmers to remove their stockings for competition as long as they quickly put on a robe once they got out of the water." [ citation needed ]

That wasn't the only advantage of belonging to the WSA. The American crawl, a variation of the Australian crawl, was developed at the WSA by Louis Handley. According to America's Girl, "Handley thought the Australian crawl, in which swimmers did three kicks and then turned on their side to take a breath and do a scissors kick, could be improved . The finished product – and its eight-beat variation, which Ederle would use – became the American crawl, and Handley was its proud father." Along with Handley, Epstein made New York female swimmers a force to be reckoned with. Ederle joined the club when she was only twelve. The same year, she set her first world record in the 880-yard freestyle, becoming the youngest world record holder in swimming. She set eight more world records after that, seven of them in 1922 at Brighton Beach. [7] In total, Ederle held 29 US national and world records from 1921 until 1925. [8]

At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Ederle won a gold medal as a member of the first-place U.S. team in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay. Together with her American relay teammates Euphrasia Donnelly, Ethel Lackie and Mariechen Wehselau, she set a new world record of 4:58.8 in the event final. Individually, she received bronze medals for finishing third in the women's 100-meter freestyle and women's 400-meter freestyle races. [7]

Ederle had been favored to win a gold in all three events and "would later say her failure to win three golds in the games was the biggest disappointment of her career." Still, she was proud to have been a part of the American team that brought home 99 medals from the Paris Olympics. It was an illustrious Olympic team – swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, oarsman Benjamin Spock, tennis player Helen Wills, and long-jumper DeHart Hubbard, who, according to America's Girl, was "the first black man to win an individual gold." The U.S. Olympic team had its own ticker-tape parade in 1924. [ citation needed ]

In 1925, Ederle turned professional. The same year she swam the 22 miles from Battery Park to Sandy Hook in 7 hours and 11 minutes, a record time which stood for 81 years before being broken by Australian swimmer Tammy van Wisse. [9] Ederle's nephew Bob later described his aunt's swim as a "midnight frolic" and a "warm-up" for her later swim across the English Channel. [9]

The Women's Swimming Association sponsored Helen Wainwright and Ederle for an attempt at swimming the Channel. Helen Wainwright pulled out at the last minute because of an injury, so Ederle decided to go to France on her own. She trained with Jabez Wolffe, a swimmer who had attempted to swim the Channel 22 times. During the training, Wolffe continually tried to slow her pace, saying that she would never last at that speed. The training with Wolffe did not go well. In her first attempt at the Channel on August 18, 1925, she was disqualified when Wolffe ordered another swimmer (who was keeping her company in the water), Ishak Helmy, to recover her from the water. According to her and other witnesses, she was not "drowning" but resting, floating face-down. She bitterly disagreed with Wolffe's decision. Wolffe had previously commented that women may not be capable of swimming the Channel and it was speculated that he did not want Ederle to succeed. [10]

Her successful Channel swim – this time training with coach Bill Burgess who had successfully swum the Channel in 1911 – began approximately one year later at Cape Gris-Nez in France at 07:08 on the morning of August 6, 1926. She came ashore at Kingsdown, Kent, 14 hours and 34 minutes later. Her record stood until Florence Chadwick swam the Channel in 1950 in 13 hours and 20 minutes. Ederle used motorcycle goggles to protect her eyes from salty water, as did Burgess in 1911. However, while Burgess swam breaststroke, she used crawl, and therefore had her goggles sealed with paraffin to render them water tight. [11]

Ederle possessed a contract from both the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune when she attempted the Channel swim a second time. The money she received paid her expenses and provided her with a modest salary. It also gave her a bonus in exchange for exclusive rights to her personal story. The Daily News and the Chicago Tribune got the jump on every other newspaper in America.

Another American swimmer in France in 1926 to try and swim the Channel was Lillian Cannon from Baltimore. She was also sponsored by a newspaper, the Baltimore Post, which tried to create a rivalry between her and Ederle in the weeks spent training off the French coast. In addition to Cannon, several other swimmers, including two other American women – Clarabelle Barrett and Amelia Gade Corson – were training in England with the goal of becoming the first woman to swim the Channel. Barrett and Cannon were unsuccessful but three weeks after Ederle's feat, Corson crossed in a time that was 50 minutes slower than Ederle.

For her second attempt at the Channel, Ederle had an entourage aboard the tug (the Alsace) on August 6, 1926, which included her father and one of her sisters, Meg, as well as Julia Harpman, wife of Westbrook Pegler and a writer for the New York Daily News, the paper that sponsored Ederle's swim. Harpman wouldn't allow reporters from other newspapers on the tug – in order to protect her "scoop" – and as a result a second tug was hired by the disgruntled reporters. On several occasions during the swim this tug (the Morinie) came in close to Ederle and nearly endangered her chances. The incident caused subsequent bitterness. It also led to accusations in the British press that the two tugs had in fact sheltered Ederle from the bad weather and thus made her swim "easier".

During her twelfth hour at sea, Burgess, her trainer, had become so concerned by unfavorable winds that he called to her 'Gertie, you must come out!' The swimmer lifted her head from the choppy waters and replied, 'What for?'

Only five men had been able to swim the English Channel before Ederle. The best time had been 16 hours, 33 minutes by Enrique Tiraboschi. Ederle walked up the beach at Kingsdown, England, after 14 hours and 34 minutes. The first person to greet her was a British immigration officer who requested a passport from "the bleary-eyed, waterlogged teenager." (She was actually 20, not "a teenager," when she successfully swam the Channel.)

When Ederle returned home, she was greeted with a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan. More than two million people lined the streets of the parade route to cheer her. She made an arrangement with Edward L. Hyman to make a personal appearance at the Brooklyn Mark Strand, and she was paid an amount far greater than they had ever paid an individual performer prior. [12] Subsequently, she went on to play herself in a movie (Swim Girl, Swim starring Bebe Daniels) and tour the vaudeville circuit, including later Billy Rose's Aquacade. She met President Coolidge and had a song and a dance step named for her. Her manager, Dudley Field Malone, was not able to capitalize on her notoriety, so Ederle's career in vaudeville wasn't a huge financial success. The Great Depression also diminished her financial rewards. A fall down the steps of her apartment building in 1933 twisted her spine and left her bedridden for several years, but she recovered well enough to appear at the 1939 New York World's Fair.


At the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, McGill won the bronze medal in the women's 110-yard butterfly, the silver medal in the women's 440-yard individual medley, and the gold medal in the 4×110-yard medley relay. [2] In 1964, she competed in four events in the Tokyo Olympic Games, finishing fourth in the 400 metre medley. [3] Later that year, she was banned by amateur swimming authorities for four years for alleged misbehavior at the games. [4] [5]

In 1965, McGill moved to London on a working holiday visa. During the northern hemisphere summer of 1965, she accepted a dare to swim the English Channel. Although she had represented her country as an Olympic swimmer the year before, she specialized in fairly short distances and had never swum more than one kilometer at a time before--the Channel, by contrast, is 35 km. Officials of the English Channel Association were appalled to learn that she was about to attempt the Channel swim with only a few weeks lunchtime training and no long distance or cold water experience. McGill, however, decided to go ahead with the swim, feeling in part that success might help vindicate her earlier ban from Olympic swimming. [5] She completed the long distance swim, becoming the first Australian to swim the English Channel on 7 August 1965, [4] swimming topless and posing topless for press photographs after the swim. [5] On this swim, she finished in 11 hours, 12 minutes and missed setting a then-world women's record by just 11 minutes. [6] [7]

In an effort to beat the record, she formally petitioned for and was granted permission from the Channel Swimming Association to swim topless, in order to prevent the straps of her swimming costume from cutting into her shoulders, as they had done on previous long swims. [8] [9] In 1967, she beat the record with a time of just under 10 hours. [4] On 23 May 1976, swimming topless most of the way, she became the first person ever to swim around Hong Kong Island, accomplishing this in 17 hours, 6 minutes. The swim, in a counterclockwise direction, was sponsored by Cathay Pacific and began and ended in Repulse Bay. McGill faced difficulties including jellyfish stings, pollution, objects in the water, ships, and inclement weather. Starting five miles into her swim, she took off her bikini top and went topless to avoid chafing. Although official records aren't kept for Hong Kong swims, this swim established an unofficial record for either gender that stood for over 40 years. McGill's record was beaten on 11 November 2017 by Simon Holliday, who swam the distance in 12 hours, 32 minutes. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

  • 1958 joined Forbes Carlyle's coaching
  • 1960 joined Don Talbot's coaching
  • 1961 Australian Swimming Championship, Brisbane: won the open national title
  • 1962 Australian Swimming Championship, Brisbane: won the 440 yards individual medley, 110 yards butterfly, 2nd 220 yards breaststroke
  • 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games - exhibition swim: won the medley relay with Dawn Fraser, Marguerithe Ruygrok and Pam Sargeant (world record)
  • 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games: bronze medal in the 110 yards butterfly, silver in the 440 yards individual medley, gold in the 440 yards medley relay (world record).
  • 1963 National titles: 5 records: 100m butterfly (Australian record), 200m butterfly (Australian record), 400m individual medley (Australian record), 200m individual medley (Australian record) and 200m breaststroke (Australian record)
  • 1964 Tokyo Olympics: 5th in the individual medley (Australian record), competed in 200m breaststroke, 100m butterfly, 400m individual medley, 4x100m medley relay
  • 1964 Ceylon Swimming Association competition: achieved many records
  • August 1965 English Channel France to England: completed her first crossing (first Australian 11 hours 12 minutes)
  • July 1967 Sydney Harbour swim: broke the American record
  • 1967 English Channel: completed her second crossing (13 hours 2 minutes)
  • September 1967 English Channel: completed her third crossing (new women's world record 9 hours 59 minutes 56 seconds)
  • New Year's Day 1968: she received the MBE (youngest Australian recipient)
  • January 1968 Phillip Bay crossing: won the event (first person to swim 14 hours)
  • 1968 Capri to Naples race, 29km (first woman 9 hours 52 minutes)
  • 1968 Lake Ontario, Canada (withdrew due to extreme cold)
  • 1968 Traversee Internationale du Lac Saint-Jean, Canada 51km: (12 hours 2 minutes 33 seconds)
  • 1968 Lake Simone, Canada, 24km
  • 1968 Block Island to Rhode Island, USA, 32km
  • 1968 Brisbane to Moreton Island, Australia
  • 1968 Townsville to Magnetic Island, Australia (first person to swim)
  • 1968 Inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame
  • May 1976 Hong Kong Island, 45 km: swam around island (first person to swim 17 hours 6 minutes)
  • 1977 Swam from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain (first person to swim)
  • 1977 Rabaul, New Guinea
  • July 1983 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, 45.8 km: the first Australian to swim around Manhattan Island (9 hours 10 minutes 55 seconds)
  • August 1984 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, 45.8 km: (8 hours 23 minutes 10 seconds)
  • August 1986 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, 45.8 km: (8 hours 48 minutes 16 seconds)
  • 1989 World Masters Games, Rio di Janeiro, Brazil
  • 2020 Inducted into the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame
  1. ^"Around Hong Kong swims | LongSwims Database". Marathon Swimmers Federation . Retrieved 15 October 2020 .
  2. ^
  3. "1962 Australian Team and Results" (PDF) . Commonwealth Games Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 February 2014 . Retrieved 12 January 2014 .
  4. ^
  5. "Linda Carol McGill Results". Olympics . Retrieved 23 May 2021 .
  6. ^ abc
  7. "McGill, Linda". The Australian Women's Register . Retrieved 12 January 2014 .
  8. ^ abc
  9. McGill, Linda (2007). Surviving the Sea of Life: The triumphs and tragedies of an Australian Olympian. New Holland. ISBN978-1741105285 .
  10. ^
  11. "Linda McGill | LongSwims Database". Marathon Swimmers Federation . Retrieved 15 October 2020 .
  12. ^
  13. "Channel Swim Easy for Linda McGill". The Tuscaloosa News . Retrieved 12 January 2014 .
  14. ^
  15. "Swimmer in Channel Topless" (PDF) . Watertown Daily Times . Retrieved 17 March 2014 .
  16. ^
  17. "Topless Swimmer". Montreal Gazette . Retrieved 17 March 2014 .
  18. ^
  19. "Linda swims around Hong Kong". The Age . Retrieved 12 January 2014 .
  20. ^
  21. Wood, Chris (4 November 2017). "1976, and a topless Australian is first to swim around Hong Kong Island". South China Morning Post . Retrieved 13 December 2017 .
  22. ^
  23. Blundy, Rachel (19 August 2017). "Expat eyeing record for swimming around Hon<g Kong Island wants to make splash for charity". South China Morning Post . Retrieved 13 December 2017 .
  24. ^
  25. McNicol, Andrew (11 November 2017). "Two years in the planning . five months of training . 12 hours and 32 minutes of exhaustion . then victory". South China Morning Post . Retrieved 13 December 2017 .
  26. ^
  27. Fitzgerald, Quinn (November 2017). "Simon Holliday Replicates Linda McGill Round Hong Kong - WOWSA". World Open Water Swimming Association . Retrieved 8 June 2020 .

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Why the first woman to swim the English Channel deserves our respect

Gertrude Ederle didn’t expect a ticker-tape parade when she returned home to New York. Strangers and admirers surrounded her, giving her congratulations for accomplishing what many thoughts was impossible for a woman to achieve. She was the first woman to successfully swim across the English Channel — and bettered the previous record by over two hours. Born with a passion for swimming and a love of being in the water, Gertrude Ederle, or “Gertie” as she was known to her close friends and relatives, often referred to herself as a “water baby.” She loved the water so much that when doctors told her that her already-compromised hearing would worsen if she continued to swim, she decided to continue swimming anyway. And if you think Ederle was only known for being the first woman to cross the English Channel, you’re sorely mistaken. She was also an Olympic gold medalist.

That’s right, our girl Ederle swam at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924. She swam a freestyle race that helped win three Olympic medals. After winning her share of gold, Ederele decided to go big or go home and swim across the English Channel in 1925. It’s a 21-mile stretch between France and England (and depending on the tide, it could be longer) that is notoriously choppy, filled with stinging jellyfish, and unbearably cold. Undeterred, Ederle thought of it as the ultimate test of her abilities as a swimmer. However, it didn’t go as planned.

In 1925, at the age of 19, Ederle stepped into the frigid waters. But that wasn’t her big day — in fact, it was quite the opposite. She was disqualified from the race. To break the world record, Ederle had to cross without any kind of physical assistance. As she swam, people aiding her along the course (feeding her, keeping track of her health and journey) thought she was drowning and reached out to help her. Their touch automatically disqualified her. Her New York Times obituary included quotes from earlier reports where Ederle explained that she was only resting and could have easily continued. She was 23 miles into her journey — eight hours in — when they pulled her into the boat. Even her coach Bill Burgess (the second person to swim the English Channel), urged her to quit because he thought she was struggling too much in the water. Even her swimsuit was holding her back.

American swimmer Gertrude Ederle, right, the first female to swim across the English Channel, is wished bon voyage by Lillian Cannon, another U.S. swimmer, before starting her historic swim August 6, 1926 in Cape Griz-Nez, France (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

At the time, women’s swimsuits were made out of wool. Women were also required to wear stockings with shoes. Anything less was considered taboo or illegal ( History ). Ederle had to make another drastic decision. She wasn’t about to go home and say that she tried. She decided to try again. The following year, Ederle returned to France. This time, she resolved to make her own rules. She ditched her old one-piece swimsuit and stepped out in a “scandalous” two-piece. She even designed her own pair of goggles. To hell with conformity! She had a record to set.

She slathered herself in sheep grease — a trick to ward off painful jellyfish stings and to insulate her from the freezing waters. Ederle once again braved the waters and started her journey. That day, the waters were rough. Ederle saw that the waters were not going to be kind to her. Before she threw herself to the mercy of the sea, with her heart hammering, Ederle gave a silent prayer: “Please, God, help me.” She dived in.

The water was frigid and unwelcoming. Nevertheless, she persisted…one stroke at a time. It was reported that she hummed between strokes to keep her motivated. She was fed chicken legs and vegetables by her supporters. The waters was relentless — but so was Ederle. After 35 miles, 14 hours and 31 minutes, Ederle reached English shores. The record prior to her historic swim was 16 hours and 33 minutes ( Dover ) Ederle had it beat by over two hours. Coming out of the water, Ederle looked like the ocean had given her it’s best beating, but she came out triumphant. Upon her return to the United States, she was already a celebrity. A parade was held for her. Overwhelmed, but overjoyed, Ederle felt like she accomplished the impossible. She was called the “Queen of the Waves,” and praised by not only the mayor of New York, but by President Calvin Coolidge who dubbed her, “America’s Best Girl.”

Ten minutes in France

The Department of Transport had advised Ms McCardel to seek legal advice ahead of the swim.

She said she has been advised by the Channel Swimming Association that her swim could go ahead.

"They said Channel swims are allowed as long as you observe social distancing when you land and don't stay on the shore for more than 10 minutes, which is standard practice for us," Ms McCardel told the BBC shortly before embarking on the swim.

She said there was little risk of coming into contact with someone in France because her swims usually end in an area of boulders near Cap Gris-Nez.

"I usually finish where there are large boulders and it's inaccessible to people on land because you can't walk through the boulders. There's no sand," she said.

Ms McCardel already negotiated special dispensation from the Australian government to travel to the UK for her record attempt.

In recent weeks she has completed three Channel crossings, taking her level with British swimmer Mr Murphy, on 34 crossings.

She told the Daily Telegraph that she hopes that her latest feat can help to raise awareness about domestic violence, revealing that she is a survivor who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Speaking after completing her feat, Ms McCardel said: "It's a very momentous occasion and I'm very proud to be able to represent Australia.

"I've also been thinking a lot about the people in lockdown, particularly women facing domestic violence, and I'm proud to be able to be a voice for those who don't have one."

Ms McCardel holds multiple records for endurance swimming, including the longest ratified unassisted ocean swim in 2014, when she covered 77.3 miles (124.4km) in 41.5 hours in the waters around the Bahamas.

In 2017, she became the first person to attempt a quadruple non-stop crossing of the English Channel, but she was not successful in completing the 84-mile journey.

The feat was finally achieved by Sarah Thomas, from the United States, last year - one year after she was treated for breast cancer.

Florence Chadwick, the Woman Who Conquered the English Channel

As she approached the shore of Sangatte, France, Florence Chadwick was exhausted. She had been swimming in the English Channel for over 16 hours, battling strong winds and thick fog that made every stroke a challenge. The previous leg of her journey, from France to England—which she had completed a year earlier—had been easy compared to this. But her effort would be worth it: When she finally arrived on French soil that day, September 11, 1951, she became the first woman to successfully swim round-trip across the English Channel.

Born in San Diego, California in 1918, Chadwick discovered her love of ocean swimming at an early age. Her hometown offered her easy access to the beach, and she started competing in swimming races at 6 years old. She liked pushing herself to swim in difficult conditions: at night, in fog, and in strong winds. At the age of 10, she swam a two-mile race in the rough waters of Hermosa Beach, wowing the crowds. At 13, she earned second place at the U.S. national championships.

After graduating from San Diego State College, she produced aquatic shows for the U.S. military, and in 1944, she swam with MGM’s water ballet star Esther Williams in the musical film Bathing Beauty. But Chadwick had her sights set far beyond Hollywood.

As a child, Chadwick had been inspired by Gertrude Ederle, who, in 1926, became the first woman to swim the English Channel. Before her, women were considered incapable of such a long-distance swim. Ederle not only proved them wrong, but beat the men’s record by two hours.

Chadwick became determined to be the first woman to swim the Channel round-trip—not just from France to England, as Ederle had, but from England to France. Swimmers and other experts considered the latter to be a more difficult crossing, in part because of the strong current pushing away from the shore. No woman had ever swum the England-to-France route successfully. Chadwick set a goal of swimming both Ederle's route and then back again, even if she had to rest in a bit between trips.

After World War II, Chadwick took a job as a comptometer (a type of adding machine) operator with an American oil company in Saudi Arabia. She swam in the Persian Gulf before and after work and for up to 10 hours on her days off. After two years of rigorous training, she decided she was ready to make the first part of her Channel attempt—the trip from France to England, which Ederle had swum in 1926.

On a chilly August morning in 1950, Chadwick dove into the water outside Wissant, France. She swam across the 21 miles of the Channel to Dover, England, accompanied by her father, friends, and authorities in a fishing boat. They kept an eye on her route and watched out for hazards, while she occasionally nibbled sugar cubes to keep up her energy. The trip took her a little over 13 hours—a world record for fastest swim across the Channel by a woman.

"I feel fine,” she told reporters after crawling ashore in England. “I am quite prepared to swim back." But Chadwick ended up delaying the trip back across the Channel to France for over a year, waiting for more favorable weather and tides, and fattening herself up on a calorie-rich diet in preparation for the weight loss that comes with a long swim in cold waters.

On September 11, 1951, despite dense fog and headwinds, Chadwick finally entered the water in Dover. The route to France was punishing, made worse by the fumes from an accompanying motorboat. But she completed the trip in 16 hours, 22 minutes—a world record. When she arrived, the mayor of Sangatte was there to shake her hand.

Chadwick’s accomplishment made her famous. Back in San Diego, townspeople threw her a ticker tape parade. She appeared on TV shows such as What's My Line?, endorsed Catalina Swimwear, and was given a car by the city of San Diego. Although she had achieved her goal of conquering the Channel, it wasn't enough.

On July 4, 1952, Chadwick attempted to swim across the Catalina Channel, which stretches from Catalina Island to the Palos Verde peninsula on the Southern California coast. After almost 16 hours of swimming through a thick fog, frigid water, and nearby sharks (which her support crew, following in boats, shot at with rifles), she gave up when she was just half a mile away from land. She later told a reporter: “Look, I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it.”

Two months later, she finally succeeded, making the journey to Catalina in 13 hours, 47 minutes—two hours faster than the previous official record, set by a man.

Chadwick followed up her Catalina swim with another trip across the English Channel from England to France in 1953, shaving several hours off her previous time. Later the same year, she swam across the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco, as well as the Bosporus and the Dardanelles straits in Turkey, breaking records made by both men and women along the way.

Although she achieved incredible success, Chadwick was also notable for her perseverance: She failed to complete swims, let alone break records, more times than she succeeded, not only in the Catalina Channel but in Lake Ontario and the Irish Sea. But she never let failure stop her. A pioneer, she demolished the notion that women were incapable of long-distance endurance swimming, and paved the way for other women to continue to break records in the sport.

Even after retiring in 1960, she wasn’t content to rest. She opened swimming schools in New York and New Jersey, frequently coached young swimmers, lectured on the value of fitness, and worked as a credit counselor and stockbroker.

In 1995, 25 years after she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Chadwick died of leukemia in San Diego. Fittingly, her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

First Man Across the Channel

“Distance swimming was a kind of public entertainment in the late 1800s,” says Lisa Bier, author of Fighting the Current: The Rise of American Women's Swimming 1870-1926. “Many of these early distance swimmers were half entertainers, half athletes.”

One of these swimmer-entertainers was Matthew Webb, who Bier says “started his distance swim career with big public events, such as an 18-mile [29-kilometer] swim of the Thames River in 1875.”

That same year, he became the first known person to swim the English Channel. During the swim, Bier says Webb’s trainers sustained him with “brandy, hot coffee, cod-liver oil, and beef broth.”

How Have Women’s Sports Changed Since Title IX?

When Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926, she beat the record of every man who’d attempted it before her—by two hours. And she did it in a two-piece bathing suit that she’d fashioned herself, eschewing the bulky wool dress, stockings, and shoes expected to be worn by women swimmers for modesty’s sake. Before Title IX’s 1972 passage, Ederle, and pioneering sportswomen from Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias to Wilma Rudolph to Billie Jean King, began the work of breaking down cultural norms around sex and sport, as well as race and class—while making history in the process. In what ways has the world changed since women were denied the opportunity to compete because of their biology? What forgotten feats by trailblazers, on and off the turf, have been relegated to the footnotes of history? And how have earlier fights for gender equality laid the groundwork for today’s debates over equal pay, anti-trans legislation, and other issues?

LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Amy Alcott, ASU sports historian Victoria Jackson, and sports attorney Jill Pilgrim, who has represented the LPGA and USA Track and Field, visit Zócalo to discuss how Title IX transformed sports for women, and its unfinished work leveling the playing field when it comes to everything from equal pay to equal opportunity.

The First Woman to Swim the English Channel Beat the Men’s Record by Two Hours - HISTORY

Martin Ward, husband of one of Ederle's 10 surviving nieces and nephews, said she died on Sunday in New Jersey.

New Yorker Ederle, who was then 20, swam from Cape Griz-Nez in France to Kingsdown, England August 1926.

Her time - 14 hours 30 minutes - beat the men's record by more than two hours.

Because of the stormy weather, she had swum 35 miles (56 kilometres) in crossing the 21-mile-wide (34-kilometre-wide) channel.

She held the women's record for 24 years, until it was broken in 1950 by Florence Chadwick, who swam 23 miles (37 kilometers) in 13 hours and 20 minutes.

In an interview marking the 75th aniversary of her feat Erderle said: "People said women couldn't swim the channel. I proved they could."

When she returned to America, there were celebrations, receptions and a roaring ticker-tape parade for her in New York.

She met President Calvin Coolidge, was paid thousands to tour, played herself in a movie (Swim, Girl, Swim) and even had a song and a dance step named after her.

She recalled that during some of the hardest moments of her swim, her trainer tried to get her to give up "I'd just look at him and say, 'What for?'"

At the ticker-tape parade, the crowds shouted, "Hello, Miss What-For!"

Ederle was a champion swimmer before her Channel swim, holding a string of world records at various distances, and appeared at the 1924 Olympics in Paris.

In 1925, she swam the 21 miles (34 kilometres) from the tip of Manhattan to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, in seven hours, 11 minutes, improving the men's record.

Her first attempt on the Channel came the same year.

She later blamed failure that time on her trainer, saying he had grabbed her when she briefly began coughing.

By the 1940s, Ederle had become completely deaf, because of childhood measles and hours spent in the water.

She took up teaching deaf children to swim, saying, "Since I can't hear either, they feel I'm one of them".

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