Open Water Swimming Highlights
- She was the first person to swim across Lake Ontario in 1954, after completing the Atlantic City swim.
- She finished 7th overall and was the 1st woman in the 1954 Atlantic City Centennial Swim, a 26-mile inaugural race around Atlantic City, New Jersey.
- She was the first woman in the 1955 Atlantic City Around-the-Island Swim, finishing the 26-mile race in 10 hours 6 minutes at the age of 16, winning US$1000.
- She swam the English Channel from France to England in 14 hours 36 minutes on 31 July 1955, becoming the youngest woman at the time at the age of 17. She returned to Toronto for a ticker tape parade along Bay Street to City Hall, attended by a crowd of 100,000 on 19 August 1955.
- She swam the Strait of Juan de Fuca on 23 August 1956 from Port Angeles, Washington, to Victoria, British Columbia, the year that he retired from swimming at the age of 18. It was her second attempt after giving up after 8 km on her first attempt.
- She is inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in the Class of 1967.
- She is inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Open Water Swimmer in the Class of 2020.
- She is the namesake of the Marilyn Bell Park.
- She was inducted in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
- She was inducted in the Ontario Swimming Hall of Fame.
- She was named one of Canada’s top athletes of the 20th century.
- She was presented with the Order of Ontario.
Lake Ontario Crossing
- On 8 September 1954, Bell started her swim across Lake Ontario from Youngstown, New York to Toronto, Canada at virtually the same time as Florence Chadwick. The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto had offered Chadwick $10,000 to swim the lake as a publicity effort for the annual exhibition. Bell, who felt the offer snubbed Canadian swimmers, took on the challenge without pay. After several hours, Chadwick was forced to give up with stomach pains and vomiting, while 16-year-old Bell completed the swim, the first person ever to swim the 32-mile (52 km) distance when she arrived in Toronto the next day. A third swimmer, Torontonian Winnie Roach, also attempted the swim at this time, but failed.
- Bell swam for 20 hours 59 minutes under gruelling conditions before she finally reached a breakwater near the Boulevard Club, west of the CNE grounds. The planned route straight across the lake was 51.5 km (32 miles), but she actually had to swim much further because of strong winds and the lack of modern navigation equipment. Waves that day were almost 5 meters high, water temperature was 21°C (65°F) and lamprey eels were attacking her legs and arms.
- Bell kept up her strength with Pablum, corn syrup, and lemon juice with water, along with heroic encouragement from her boat crew and her coach, Gus Ryder. Radio stations broadcast hourly reports of her progress and rival newspapers published “extra” editions throughout the day. When she finally arrived at about 8:15 p.m., a crowd of 400,000 people gave her an emotional welcome at the Sunnyside, Toronto waterfront.
- The CNE decided to give Bell the $10,000 prize, and she was later given numerous gifts, including a car, television, clothing and furniture.
Marilyn married Joe Di Lascio and moved to New Jersey, United States. They raised four children, Lisa, Michael, Jodi, and Janet. Joe died in September 2006.
Awards and recognition
- In 1954, Bell was named the Canadian Newsmaker of the Year by the Canadian Press. Bell was also inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1958. In 1994 she entered the Canadian Swimming Hall of Fame and was named one of Canada's top athletes of the century. In 2002, Bell (now Marilyn Bell Di Lascio) was presented with the Order of Ontario.
- The national Historic Sites and Monuments Board designated Bell's crossing of the lake a Events of National Historic Significance (Canada) in 2005, and a federal plaque was erected in 2008 near the site of her landfall.
- The story of Bell's historic swim was told in the 2001 made-for-TV film Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story with Caroline Dhavernas portraying Marilyn Bell.
- The parkland near the location where Bell arrived was renamed Marilyn Bell Park.
- In 2009, the Lakeshore Swimming Club of Toronto held the first annual Marilyn Bell Swim Classic, a meet sanctioned by Swim Ontario.
- In 2010, a ferry boat to serve the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport was named the Marilyn Bell 1. The name was chosen as the top name in a contest held by the Toronto Port Authority.
Heart The Marilyn Bell Story
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- Canadian Open Water Swimming
- English Channel website
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