Little Bits of History

Gertrude Ederle

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 6, 2011

Gertrude Ederle

August 6, 1926: Gertrude Ederle, 20 years old, becomes the first woman to swim the English Channel. She won one gold and two bronze medals for freestyle in the 1924 Olympics. In 1925 she swam 21 miles across Lower New York Bay from Manhattan to Sandy Hook in seven hours. She then attempted the English Channel swim a straight shot distance of 22 miles and failed. Her coach, Jabez Wolffe who had attempted the swim 20 times and failed, pulled her from the waters when he thought she was tiring.

For her next try, Gertrude hired a new coach – Thomas Burgess who had made the swim before. She left from Cap Gris-Nez, France at 7:05 AM and swam to Kingstown, England in 14 hours and 35 minutes, arriving at 9:40 PM. Along the way she met unfavorable winds that kicked up 20 foot swells. Her coach asked her to come aboard the boat and she replied, “What for?” Because of the treacherous water conditions, she actually swam 35 miles (56 km) to cover the distance. Only five men had previously made the swim with the best time at 16 hours and 33 minutes.

During her swimming career, Gertrude won 29 national and world records. After this world record swim, she was met with a ticker tape parade in New York City. She went on tour across the country and met President Coolidge. She had measles as a child and had diminished hearing as a result and she went completely deaf by the age of 40. She spent the rest of her life teaching deaf children to swim. She died in 2003 at the age of 98.

The first to swim the channel was Capt. Matthew Webb in 1875, swimming from England to France. In 1923, Enrico Tirabaschi was the fist to swim from France to England. Lynne Cox, 15 years old, has been the youngest to swim in 1972 while George Brunstad was 70 years old in 2004 when he made the swim. The fastest time goes to Christof Wandratsch who swam the channel in 7 hours 3 minutes and 52 seconds in 2005. There have been 811 people making 1,185 crossings that have been verified and under the rules set up for the major swim.

“Success is that old ABC – ability, breaks, and courage.” – Charles Luckman

“No man drowns if he perseveres in praying to God; and can swim.” – Russian Proverb

“A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.” – Pat Riley

“The endurance athlete is the ultimate realist.” – Marty Liquori

Also on this day:
Fat Man’s Predecessor – In 1945, an atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
Humane? – In 1890, the first execution by electric chair took place.

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