Cindy Nicholas

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Quite simply, Cindy Nicholas was prolific. For lack of a better word: incredulous. Her body boasted the stamina of many people, not just her own. How do you account for the fact she retired as the world-record holder for 19 successful crossings of the English Channel? You just shake your head. Nicholas established her first world record 30 years ago this year when she crossed Lake Ontario from Youngstown, N.Y., to the CNE in 15 hours, 10 minutes. "That would have to be the highlight of my career because it was the first time doing a long swim," Nicholas said. "It was so well covered by the media. I became a celebrity over-night. Like wow, I was Super Cindy. When I got up out of the water, I fainted after 10 minutes. I should have sat down for a while and after that, I made that a practice."

In 1975, Nicholas, now a practising lawyer in Scarborough, became the first and youngest woman to swim across the English Channel. "After that swim, I became internationally known," she said. "I was voted Canadian Press female athlete of the year."

Then in 1977, she fashioned a two-way crossing of the Channel in a new world record for men and women in just under 20 hours, some 10 hours less than the previous standard. In 1978, she mastered six successful crossings of the English Channel, her home away from home. By doing that, she received the moniker of Queen of the Channel. In the span of four years, she had done five, two-way crossings of the Channel, most by anyone. Nicholas actually began her career in the water as an indoors competitor in the long sprints. From 1962-74, she swam competitively and during that time span, she held 16 Ontario and Canadian age-group records.

"As cavalier as that sounds, I had already been preparing for marathon swimming by training six days a week, four hours a day, doing six or seven miles in a pool," Nicholas said. "Several times, my father Jim would say, "Why don't you swim Lake Ontario like Marilyn Bell?"

Nicholas took up that advice and went on to be a whiz in marathons.

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