GERTRUDE EDERLE Biography - Famous Sports men and women


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Name: Gertrude Ederle                                                                 
Born: 23 October 1905                                                                 
Died: 30 November 2003                                                                 
Gertrude Caroline Ederle (October 23, 1905 – November 30, 2003) was an American     
competitive swimmer. In 1926, she became the first woman to swim across the           
English Channel.                                                                       
Gertrude was the daughter of a German immigrant who ran a delicatessen on             
Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan. She was known as Trudy as a youth; her father           
gave her permission to bob her hair if she expressed an interest in swimming.         
She trained at the Men's Swimming Association which produced such competitors as       
Eleanor Holm and Esther Williams. She joined the club when she was only thirteen.     
From this time Gertrude began to break and establish more amateur records than         
any other woman in the world.                                                         
At the 1924 Summer Olympics, she won a gold medal as a part of the US 400-meter       
freestyle relay team and bronze medals for finishing third in the 100-meter and       
400-meter freestyle races.                                                             
In 1925, Ederle swam a 21-mile crossing across Lower New York Bay, from               
Manhattan to Sandy Hook, taking over seven hours. Later that year, she made her       
first attempt at swimming the Channel, but she was disqualified when a trainer         
grabbed her after she began coughing.                                                 
Her famous cross-channel swim began at Cap Gris-Nez in France at 07:05 on the         
morning of August 6, 1926. Fourteen hours and 30 minutes later, she came ashore       
at Kingsdown, England. Her record stood until Florence Chadwick swam the channel       
in 1950 in 13 hours and 20 minutes.                                                   
Gertrude possessed a contract from both the New York Daily News and Chicago           
Tribune when she attempted the Channel swim a second time. The money she               
received paid her expenses and provided her with a modest salary. It also gave         
her a bonus in exchange for exclusive rights to her personal story. The Journal       
News and the Chicago Tribune got the jump on every other newspaper in America.         
Another American swimmer in France in 1926 to try and swim the Channel was             
Lillian Cannon from Baltimore. She was sponsored by the Baltimore Post and this       
led to much rivalry between her and Ederle in the weeks spent training off the         
French coast. In addition to Cannon, two other American women - Clarabelle             
Barrett and Mille Gade - were training in England with the goal of becoming the       
first woman to swim the Channel. Barrett and Cannon were unsuccessful but three       
weeks after Ederle's feat, Gade crossed in a time that was 50 minutes slower.         
The people alongside Ederle aboard the tug on August 6, 1926 included her father       
and one of her sisters, Margaret, and Julie Harpman, a writer for the New York         
Daily News, the paper that sponsored Ederle's swim. Harpman refused to allow any       
other reporters on the tug - in order to protect her 'scoop' - and as a result a       
second tug was hired by the disgruntled reporters. On several occasions during         
the swim this tug deliberately came in close to Ederle in the hope she would           
touch it and thereby be disqualified. Fortunately, Ederle didn't, but the             
incident caused much bitterness subsequently. It also led to accusations in the       
British press, that the two tugs had in fact sheltered Ederle from the bad             
weather and thus made her swim 'easier'.                                               
During her twelfth hour at sea, Gertrude had become so bothered by unfavorable         
winds that her trainer, Thomas Burgess, called to her Gertie, you must come out!       
The exhausted swimmer lifted her head from the choppy waters and replied, What         
Only five men had been able to swim the English Channel before Ederle. The best       
time had been 16 hours, 33 minutes by an Italian-born Argentine, Enrique               
Tiraboschi. Ederle walked up the beach at Dover, England after 14 hours and 31         
minutes. The first person to greet her was a British immigration officer who           
requested a passport from "the bleary-eyed, waterlogged teenager."                     
Parade for Ederle, coming up Broadway                                                 
When Ederle returned home, she was greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York       
City. She went on to play herself in a movie (Swim Girl, Swim) and tour the           
vaudeville circuit, including Billy Rose's Aquacade. She met President Coolidge       
and had a song and a dance step named for her. Unfortunately, her manager,             
through a combination of incompetence and duplicity, mishandled her showbiz           
career and Ederle failed to reap the rewards she deserved.                             
She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965.                 
Ederle had poor hearing since childhood due to measles, and by the 1940s she was       
completely deaf. She spent the rest of her life teaching swimming to deaf             
children. She died on November 30, 2003 in her hometown of Wyckoff, New Jersey,       
at the age of 98 and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New