December 2, 2003 by

Trudy Ederle

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Categories: Sports

Gertrude Caroline Ederle, the first woman to swim the 21-mile-wide English Channel, died on Nov. 30. Cause of death was not released. She was 98.
The American swimmer was only 19 years old when she won a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle relay, and bronze medals in the 100 meter and 400 meter individual freestyle events at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. The following year, Ederle swam from the tip of Manhattan to Sandy Hook, N.J., in seven hours, 11 minutes, breaking the record previously set by her male counterparts.
The first time she tried to swim the English Channel, she was disqualified by a worried trainer who touched her. Undaunted, Ederle tried again on Aug. 6, 1926, using the crawl stroke to battle rip tides, driving rain and dangerous aquatic creatures like poisonous jellyfish and sharks. She arrived in Kingsdown, England, in 14 hours and 30 minutes.
When she returned to America, Ederle was honored with a ticker-tape parade in her hometown of New York, met President Calvin Coolidge and even played herself in the movie, “Swim, Girl, Swim.” In 1933, she fell down a flight of stairs, dislocating a pelvic joint and injuring her spine. After six years of struggle, including two trapped inside a body cast, Ederle was able to perform at the 1939 World’s Fair. She spent her later years teaching deaf children how to swim and staying out of the spotlight.
Sports Illustrated listed Ederle at #42 in its list of the 100 Greatest Female Athletes.

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