"Last year when I swam it, I literally crawled over jellyfish and was stung so badly I couldn't raise my arm properly for four days. This time it was overcast, and they were down two feet or so. The only difficult part this time was when I landed on the rocks at Cap Gris-Nez. I wasted a lot of energy trying to get away."
For seven or eight minutes she was battered against those rocks as she tried to break free of the shoreline. When she finally got under way again, she realized she was bleeding from cuts on her legs, but all she could do was to rub in a handful of Vaseline from a tube her parents tossed her from the pilot boat. Cut and bruised, she crawled out of the Channel on her hands and knees over the rocks of Shakespeare Beach, under the startled gaze of three British Railway workmen, the only ones there to meet her.
When Gertrude Ederle returned to her native New York in 1926, after becoming the first woman to swim the Channel, Mayor James J. Walker likened her achievement, with more enthusiasm than felicity, to Moses' crossing of the Red Sea. She also was given a ticker-tape parade before multitudes of cheering New Yorkers. After her swim, Cindy Nicholas got four hours to herself, during which time she fainted and sprained her wrist, having stood up too quickly from a rest and a hot bath. She then had to deal with the world press for 16 straight hours. "Those 16 hours were harder for me than the swim," she says.
Back home in Canada, Toronto greeted her with what was billed as a ticker-tape parade, but a steady drizzle held the crowd down to about 50, and the ticker tape never materialized. She did get a personal letter from Prime Minister Trudeau and while still in England got an invitation to meet the Queen.
She could not accept the latter, as she would have had to go home to register for school, return and go home again, and it had already cost the Nicholas family some $7,000 to get to and swim the English Channel. But Queen Elizabeth will be in Ottawa next month, and Cindy has been invited to meet her at a luncheon. "I know she sees millions of people, but the Queen is...there's so much protocol, and, well, I feel it to be an honor."
So it is. And well deserved.