Swimming the English Channel has long been considered a worthy, and difficult, athletic feat. But a non-stop, two-way crossing is a formidable task. Cindy Nicholas of Scarborough, Ontario, was more than up to the challenge when she took to the water at Shakespeare Beach on September 7, 1977. The 20-year-old University of Toronto student had already proven her marathon swimming mettle. In 1974, she crossed Lake Ontario in record time and completed her first one-way swim of the English Channel. In 1976, she was named the world’s top woman marathon swimmer for a season that included two, one-way trips across the Channel. On September 8, 1977, Nicholas became the first woman and youngest swimmer to complete a round-trip, non-stop crossing of the English Channel. Her time of 19 hours, 55 minutes was also a record, demolishing by some 10 hours, the previous mark set in 1975 by American Jon Erikson.

Wendy Long

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