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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Woman to swim across the English Channel


Gertrude Caroline Ederle (October 23, 1905 – November 30, 2003) was an American competitive swimmer. In 1926, she became the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Gertrude Ederle was the daughter of a German immigrant who ran a butcher shop on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan; she was born in New York City.She was known as Trudy as a youth. Her father taught her to swim in Highlands, New Jersey, where the family owned a summer cottage. Among other nicknames, the press sometimes called her Queen of the Waves.

Ederle trained at the Women's Swimming Association, the WSA, which produced such competitors as Eleanor Holm and Esther Williams. She joined the club when she was only thirteen. From this time Gertrude began to break and establish more amateur records than any other woman in the world. At the 1924 Summer Olympics, she won a gold medal as a part of the US 400-meter freestyle relay team and bronze medals for finishing third in the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle races. She had been favored to win a gold medal in all three events and was bitterly disappointed in the outcome.

In 1925, Ederle swam a 21-mile crossing across Lower New York Bay, from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, in just over seven hours. Later that year, the Women's Swimming Association sponsored her first attempt at swimming the Channel, but she was disqualified when her trainer, Jabez Wolffe, had another swimmer, Ishak Helmy, recover her from the water. Trudy bitterly disagreed with that decision.

Her successful cross-channel swim began one year later at Cap Gris-Nez in France at 07:05 on the morning of August 6, 1926. 14 hours and 30 minutes later, she came ashore at Kingsdown, Kent, England. Her record stood until Florence Chadwick swam the channel in 1950 in 13 hours and 20 minutes.Ederle had poor hearing since childhood due to measles, and by the 1940s she was completely deaf. She spent much of the rest of her life teaching swimming to deaf children. She never married and died on November 30, 2003 in Wyckoff, New Jersey, at the age of 98. She was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery located in the Bronx, New York.

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