Yesterday, I had another brick rehab session. It started in the pool, where I met Mary, a spry, young 91-year old lady. White hair, remarkably fit, and fun – she reminded me of how my mom used to be. It turns out she had been a swimmer all her life. We chatted as we went through our exercises.
Like me, she preferred swimming in the pool. She told me of the neighbor she grew up with near San Diego, Florence Chadwick. “She swam across the English Channel and broke the record held by Gertrude Ederle,” she said, “You probably don’t know her. But she was something! She swam from Catalina, too!”
Then I told her about my friend Lynne Cox, who also conquered the English Channel and Catalina before she could even drive. I told her about Lynne's books, Swimming to Antarctica and Grayson. “Oh my, I’ll have to get those out of the library,” Mary said enthusiastically. “I’ll tell my grandchildren about those books too.”
Then we got back to business and listened for instructions from our physical therapist. We had to do more walking back and forth in chest-deep water. Our P.T. shouted suggestions from the deck on our form while I walked like a drunk, listing to the left. As Mary walked away from him holding a floating dumbbell. she kept turning to me with a little grin and sweetly ask, “What did he say?” I repeated his instructions. Sometimes I’d have to ask him to repeat them to me before I told her. We were in giggles. I decided to stay in the pool a little longer to fulfill my role as the Miracle Ear.
When I got home, I researched Florence Chadwick
Here’s what I found from Wikipedia:
Florence May Chadwick (November 9, 1918 – March 15, 1995) was an American swimmer who was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. She also made contributions to various youth groups.
Born in San Diego, Chadwick had her first swimming competition win at the age of ten, and at the age of eleven competed in her first "challenging" competition, a rough water swim. She placed fourth in the event.
Chadwick's biggest contribution to swimming history occurred on August 8, 1950, when she crossed the English Channel in 13 hours and 20 minutes, breaking the then-current world record held by American swimmer Gertrude Ederle. One year later, Chadwick crossed the English Channel yet again, from England to France; this time, in 16 hours and 22 minutes, thus making her the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions, and setting a record for the England-France journey.
In 1952, Florence was the first woman to attempt to swim the 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline. As she began, she was flanked by small boats that watched for sharks and were prepared to help her if she got hurt or grew tired. After about 15 hours a thick fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she didn’t think she could make it. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, unable to see the coastline due to the fog. As she sat in the boat, she found out she had stopped swimming just one mile away from her destination.
Two months later, Chadwick tried again. This time was different. The same thick fog set in, but she made it because she said that she kept a mental image of the shoreline in her mind while she swam.
In 1954, she attempted to become the first person to swim across Lake Ontario (her competitor in this endeavor, Canadian Marilyn Bell, succeeded the next day).
And this from Encarta:
Florence Chadwick (1918-1995), American swimmer, the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. Florence May Chadwick was born in San Diego, California, and swam in her first race at age six. She had a relatively successful career as a competitive swimmer, once finishing second to Eleanor Holm at the United States national championships, but she never qualified for the Olympic Games.
Chadwick attended San Diego State College, Southwestern University of Law, and Balboa Law School. She later directed and produced aquatic shows before taking a job with an oil company in Saudi Arabia. There, she trained in the Persian Gulf and planned her English Channel crossing. On August 8, 1950, Chadwick swam the English Channel from France to England in 13 hours 20 minutes, breaking the record held by Gertrude Ederle. The next year, Chadwick swam from England to France—a more difficult crossing—in 16 hours 22 minutes, becoming the first woman to swim the channel in both directions. On October 12, 1955, she swam again from England to France, this time in 13 hours 55 minutes, setting a new world record for the southward crossing.
Chadwick’s exploits in the English Channel won her fame, but she also swam several other bodies of water, including the Strait of Gibraltar, the Bosporus connecting Europe and Asia in Turkey, the Dardanelles in Turkey, and the Bristol Channel between England and Wales. She tried three times to swim the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, but never succeeded. Chadwick retired from swimming in 1960 and went on to become a stockbroker.