Gertrude Ederle

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  • Topic: English Channel, Gertrude Ederle, Dover
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  • Published : October 4, 2005
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Gertrude Ederle
Gertrude "Trudy" Ederle was a pioneer in women's swimming. She was born on October 23, 1906. She began to swim at the age of eight. Her father taught her to swim at the family summer cottage in Highlands, New Jersey. She lived in and grew up in New York City and at the age of 13, she joined the New York Women's Swimming Association. She won her first big race when she was fifteen years old and began to get a good sized collection of first place trophies.

From 1921 to 1925, Ederle set 29 United States and world records for swimming races ranging from the 50-yard to the half-mile race. In the 1924 Summer Olympic Games, she won a gold medal as a member of the championship U.S. 400-meter freestyle relay team. She also won bronze medals for finishing third in the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle races.

With funding from the Women's Swimming Association, Gertrude Ederle first attempted to swim the English Channel on August 18, 1925. Eight hours and forty-six minutes in the water, with only six miles to go, a wave engulfed her, and she had to stop to spit out the salt water. Her trainer thought that she was collapsing and called to a man swimming alongside her to grab her. He did, and therefore disqualified her. Although Ederle said, "I could have gone on," there was no fame in defeat.

Many men and some women had tried to swim the English Channel, but the passage proved to be too severe. The existence of crosscurrents, heavy tides, and choppy waves made the English Channel a treacherous body of water. Until 1926, only five men had successfully made the swim. Of the five fastest times recorded, Enrique Tiraboschi of Argentina held the first position with the time of sixteen hours and thirty-three minutes.

Ederle's second attempt to swim the Channel would require funding, and the Women's Swimming Association simply did not have adequate resources to sponsor her swim. After learning of Ederle's situation, a newspaper publisher,...
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