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Amazing Women in Swimming History

Posted in Motivation


How much do you know about the most famous female swimmers and how they influenced swimming history? From revolutionizing the swimsuit to rescuing refugees in open water, these amazing women are wonderful reminders of the strength and determination of women in swimming. And as summer begins, and we all jump in the pool, here are 6 trailblazing women swimmers that you need to know:


  • Annette Kellerman (1887-1975): From Australia, Annette was not only a famous swimmer, but also an actress, writer, and business owner. She helped popularize synchronized swimming, and was one of the first women to wear a one-piece swimsuit. During this period, women were expected to wear a full dress and pantaloons, but Annette advocated for a close-fitting one piece with stockings (and you thought the bikini was bad?). She was the first woman ever to race against men, beating over a dozen of them. As one of the first women to attempt swimming the English Channel in 1905, she tried 3 times, but never completed the trip. She acted in several silent films and would perform on stage. In 1974 she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.


  • Charlotte "Eppy" Epstein (1884-1938): Known as the "Mother of Women's Swimming in America,” Charlotte became president of National Women's Life League in 1912. This organization focused on teaching girls and women to swim in order to avoid drowning. She also founded the Women's Swimming Association (WSA) and campaigned for women's suffrage. She coached the U.S. Women's Olympic Swim Team in the 1920, 1924, and 1928 Olympic Games. Eppy was known for her toughness and her swimmers were champions and above all else, team players.


  • Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003): Gertrude grew up in Manhattan and swam often, despite contracting the measles and suffering hearing damage. On August 6, 1926 Gertrude made swimming history by becoming the first woman to swim English Channel in 14.5 hours, beating her male competitors by 2 hours. She won a gold medal in the 1924 Summer Olympics as a member of the 4x100m relay team and won bronze in the 100m freestyle and 400m freestyle in the same games. Although her swim across the English Channel left her almost completely deaf, she went on to teach swimming to deaf children in New York. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965.


  • Esther Williams (1921-2013): Esther, an American swimmer and actress, won a National AAU Championship in the 100m freestyle with record time in 1939. She planned to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics, but they were cancelled due to World War II. She became a famous actress, and in 1952 portrayed the famous female swimmer Annette Kellerman in the biopic Million Dollar Mermaid. Esther went on to star in several swimming movies after being noticed by a producer while working at a department store. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1966.


  • Dara Torres (1967-): Dana is one of the most decorated American swimmers as a 5-time Olympic swimmer. She has competed for the U.S. in 5 Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008) and won 12 Olympic medals. At the 2008 Games she became the oldest swimmer on the U.S. team at age 41, and won 3 silver medals (50m freestyle, 4x100m medley relay, 4x100m freestyle relay). In college she swam for the University of Florida where she won 3 NCAA individual championships and 6 NCAA relay championships. She now empowers women from all walks of life with her message: encouraging big dreams, perseverance, & healthy living.


  • Yusra Mardini (1998-): Yusra is a Syrian swimmer who grew up and trained in Damascus, but her home was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War. In 2015 as a teenager, she fled with her sister Sarah to Lebanon, and then to Turkey. From Turkey, she boarded a small boat with 18 other refugees. Later the engine failed and Yusra, her sister, and two others, pushed the boat for 3 hours to the island of Lesbos. She then traveled through Europe to settle in Germany where she now resides in Berlin. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Yusra competed on the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team where she won her preliminary heat, and the Refugee Olympic Team made history. She swam in the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly races. On April 27, 2017, she was appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

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