Sport: Swimming - Marathon
Birth: Toronto, Ontario, August 20, 1957
Career Highlights1974 - Swam across Lake Ontario and set a record of 15 hours and 10 minutes
1974-82 - Completed 19 crossings of the English Channel, including five, two-way crossings
1975 - Set the English Channel World Record of 9 hours, 46 minutes
1976 - 1st in three races in Chibougamau, Quebec
1976 - 1st in women’s division in a race across Lac St.Jean
1976 - Women’s International Swimming Champion
1977 - First woman to swim the English Channel both ways non-stop, setting newworld record of 19 hours and 55 minutes
1977 - First woman to swim across the Baie des Chaleurs
1977 - Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy
1978 - First person to compete two-way crossing of Baie des Chaleurs
1978 - Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame
1979 - Named to the Order of Canada
Cindy Nicholas first came to the public’s attention on August 16, 1974, when, at the age of 16, she successfully swam across Lake Ontario. With a time of 15 hours and 10 minutes, Nicholas knocked a whole five hours and 52 minutes off of Marilyn Bell’s 20-year-old record, the first fantastic feat in her brilliant eight-year marathon swimming career.
Taught to swim by her father, Nicholas began racing competitively at the age of five and won her first medal at age eight. Aware of her unusual staying power, she switched to distance races while in her teens.
On July 29-30, 1975, Nicholas challenged the English Channel for the first time, setting a new world record of 9 hours and 46 minutes for the crossing from France to England.
Nineteen-seventy-six was an incredible year for Nicholas. On August 1 at a meet in Chibougamau, Quebec, she placed first in three races, 10 miles, 5 miles, and 1½ miles with only a two hour break between races. On August 8, she won the women’s division of a 25-mile race across Lac St. Jean. On September 6, Nicholas swam the English Channel from England to France in 10 hours, 20 minutes and on the 17th, she swam it again in 10 hours, 24 minutes. The World Federation of Swimming named her the Women’s International Swimming Champion that same year.
In 1977, Nicholas became the first and youngest woman to swim the English Channel both ways, non-stop. Her time of 19 hours and 55 minutes eclipsed the former 30 hour record set by American John Ericson. She received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Trophy later that year as Canada’s top female athlete of 1977.
Between 1975 and 1982, Nicholas completed a total of 19 Channel crossings, including five, two-way crossings. The only goal not achieved was a successful completion of a triple crossing. However, she did set a double-crossing record in 1982 when she completed the swim in 18 hours and 55 minutes. It is no wonder she was dubbed the “Queen of the English Channel.”
Nicholas was also the first woman to swim across Baies des Chaleurs, from Grand Anse, New Brunswick, to Paspebiac, Quebec, in 1977. The following year, she was the first person to complete a two-way crossing in 14 hours and 54 minutes, another world record. In 1980, she conquered the hot, polluted Nile River in 11 hours and 24 minutes.
When her penchant for record-smashing had run dry, Nicholas embarked on a successful career as a lawyer. For her heroic accomplishments, Nicholas received an honoured place in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1978 and was named to the Order of Canada in 1979.