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Cindy Nicholas


A Canadian Legend

In 1974, at age 16, Cindy Nicholas became the fastest swimmer of either sex to have crossed Lake Ontario, with a time of 15 hours 10 minutes - and this time still stands as the ladies' record over 47 years later. The events of her crossing from Youngstown, N.Y. to Ontario Place in Toronto are well-reported in the bio of her induction into the ISHOF.

This achievement was just the start of a tremendous marathon swimming career which involved 19 crossings of the English Channel - earning her the title of Queen of the Channel in 1977, until the record was broken by Alison Streeter in 1992. 

Cindy's numerous Channel crossings and associated records are proudly listed in our page of Canadians who have crossed the Channel. Ten of her 19 crossings were two-way swims. Her records included France to England woman’s record time of 9:46 in 1975, first woman, youngest and fastest two-way crossing in 1977 (19:55); another two-way World Record of 18:51 in 1982, and an England-France World Record of 8:21 on the first leg of her in 1981 two-way swim.

She also competed in the Lac Saint-Jean 32 km races in 1976, 1977, and 1978 and had a tremendous competition with her Canadian rival, Loreen Passfield, whom she beat in only the 1976 race. In 1976 she earned the women’s title of World Professional Marathon Champion. She was also the first woman to swim across the 14.9 mile Chaleur Bay from Grand Anse, New Brunswick to Paspebiac, Quebec, in a record time of 7 hours 22 minutes in 12.8 degree C water.


Numerous awards and recognitions have been showered upon Cindy. She was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall Of Fame in 1978,  the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, and Swim Ontario's Hall of Fame in 1993. She received the Cliff Lumsdon Award of SSO in 1999. She was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1979.

Cindy worked as a lawyer in Toronto and was elected to serve as a member of the Provencal Parliament in the riding of Scarborough Centre from 1987 to 1990. She was often called upon to provide advice to aspiring swimmers of Lake Ontario. She was on SSO's Advisory Board for many years. Cindy died from liver cancer on May 19, 2016. CTV News obituary report.

Her modesty and achievements make us proud to identify her as "a Canadian Marathon Swimming Legend."

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