Cindy Nicholas, 1st Woman to Double-Cross English Channel, Dies at 58

Cindy Nicholas, a legendary and record-breaking open water swimmer, has passed away at the age of 58 after battling liver cancer.

In 1977, at 19-years old, she became the first woman to accomplish a non-stop double-crossing of the English Channel.

The first man to do the two-way swim was Antonio Abertondo of Argentina, who did so in 1961.

When Nicholas did her double grossing in 19 hours and 55 minutes, not only was she the first woman to do so, she did the two-way distance 10 hours and 5 minutes faster than the previous record by either gender.

Nicholas still has done the double-crossing more than any other woman in history – 5 times.

Double Crossings list:

  • 1977 – 19 h 55 mins
  • 1979 – 19 h 12 mins
  • 1981 – 22 h 21 mins
  • 1982 – 18 h 55 mins
  • 1982 – 20 h 09 mins

In total, she’s crossed the English Channel on 19 occasions, and was dubbed the Queen of the Channel.

A full list of Nicholas’ honors:

  • 1977 Bobby Rosenfeld Award (Canadian Female Athlete of the Year)
  • Member of the Order of Canada (1979)
  • Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (1993)
  • Ontario Sports Hall of Fame (2003)
  • International Swimming Hall of Fame (2005)
  • Crossed Lake Ontario in 15 hours, 10 minutes at 16, the first to attempt it in 13 years (1974)
  • Held 16 Ontario and Canadian Age Group Records
  • Competed at the 1972 Canadian Olympic Trials at 14 years old
  • First woman to swim across the 14.9 mile Chaleur Bay
  • 5th person of either gender to complete a two-way crossing
  • Held the honor of most English Channel swims by a woman from 1977-1992 (the record was 5 when she first broke it)

Outside of her marathon swimming career, Nicholas was a lawyer in Scarborough, Ontario, who served as a member of Provencal Parliament for Scarborough from 1987-1990.

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ice age swimmer
7 years ago

So sad to die so young. I wonder if it could have been caused by undiagnosed hemochromatosis, a genetic problem that causes you to have ultra high iron levels in your blood, which eventually destroys your liver. It runs in my family. My grandfather died of cirrhosis and liver cancer, without ever drinking alcohol. Fortunately, if you have it, all you have to do is let them draw blood from you every couple of months.

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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