Initially hoping to be an Olympian, Cindy Nicholas discusses changing her focus after being cut from the 1972 Olympic team. After her father suggested she swim Lake Ontario, Nicholas took on the new challenge with success. Nicholas discusses swimming the English Channel, being named the Queen of the English Channel and winning Female Athlete of the year.

Creator: Bruce Weir

© 2012, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. All Rights Reserved.


Transcript

Well when I started I was planning to go to the Olympics and I went to the Olympic Trials in ’72 and then was hoping to go to the Montreal Olympics in ’76. My father every morning would say, “Why don’t you swim Lake Ontario? Marilyn Bell swam Lake Ontario.” And he kept saying that and then eventually I just did in 1974, I swam Lake Ontario, and then from then on it seemed like long distance was the thing for me to do.

When I swam for the English Channel I did a little bit, I did the same training in a pool with sprint swimmers, with a competitive club, with kids who were aiming to be in the Nationals or the Olympics. The only difference is I did a little bit outdoor swimming before I went to the English Channel. So I was up at Lake Rosseau, swam around there a little bit more and that was the only, thing I did. I went to the English Channel, practiced in the English Channel a couple of days and swam across it.

You have to get up very early and take a boat that you jump off of to get to the beach. And I remember you know waving and there was quite a few people at the beach that day, there was quite a few swimmers starting off to swim across the English Channel. I had a really difficult turn in France. When I went ashore there was a lot of waves and I was landing on rocks not on beach, and I got quite cut up and quite buffeted around and I was really sore and I was bleeding and it was cold. And so I knew I was on record but I was just trying to stop the bleeding [chuckle] from the rocks and the scratches, they hurt and they stung. And so when I was on the way back I just kept swimming and swimming and at about 14 hours into the swim is when I knew I was doing pretty darn good. But I thought any minute I might get caught by a tide and start not making any progression even though I was swimming fast. There’s always a tide could come by and put you back a little bit. And so I really wasn’t too sure until I was about three miles from shore that it was going to be a record swim.

I found out that if you swam the English Channel, the most for any woman you got the title of Queen of the English Channel. So when I did five I tied Greta Andersen’s record so that made me do six. And then I worried that someone else would want to be Queen of the English Channel just like I did so then I did seven, eight, nine and then I got up to nineteen. Thought that was going to be a solid record for my lifetime – and it wasn’t.

I have to say there’s three things in life that have been the most greatest things that have happened to me, outside of you know swimming and breaking a record but that I’ve been honoured with, something that I’ve been honoured with. And being Canada’s Woman Athlete of the Year was the first most spectacular thing that happened to me because of my swimming. As a result of a swim or swimming that I did I was honoured with that award and to this day it is one of the three greatest achievements that, or awards that have been bestowed on me that have just been a dream come true.


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