International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductees Kevin Murphy, Tim Johnson and Montserrat Tresserras Dou all contributed a variety of interesting information about pioneering marathon swimmer Mercedes Gleitze.
Johnson recalled, “Mercedes’ 1928 swim was terrific, pioneering a swim across the Strait of Gibraltar. It was an unimaginable and unthinkable swim at the time. She made sure the press knew why she was doing it.
Most telling is the swim wasn’t duplicated for twenty years.”
Montserrat added, “Mercedes swam the English Channel and her swim was recognized by Channel Swimming Association after she and her coach George Henry Allen accepted the affidavit before a commissioner of oaths.
On page 63 of my book Nadando El Estrecho, Sus Orígenes Y Su Historia (Swimming the Strait, Its Origin and History), the affidavit is reproduced. Mercedes was the first European lady and third lady in the Channel Swimming Association files.”
Mercedes was successful on her sixth attempt, after three attempts from Africa and three attempts from Spain. She finally swam from Tarifa, Spain on April 5th 1928 to Punta Leona on the Moroccan coast in 12 hours 50 minutes. And she kept on swimming.
Murphy noted, “I have a typed copy of a report of her 1929 Wash swim which makes clear that she swam from Butterwick to Heacham after being dissuaded from attempting Skegness to Hunstanton.”
Johnson added an interesting note of a focused marathon swimmer, “Consider what Mercedes did on her honeymoon. After marrying her sweetheart, Patrick Carey, she went to Turkey and swam the Hellespont at its widest point in 2 hours 45 minutes. She was married on August 9th 1930, and by August 16th she was off stroking in the Hellespont.”
Sources for this article include the New York Times from April 7th 1928, the Asociación de cruce a nado del Estrecho de Gibraltar website, the NY Times from August 17th 1930 entitled Woman Swims Hellespont, the Dover Museum, the Dover Express, the Madrid Library Town Council, the Dover Library, and the Nadando El Estrecho, Sus Orígenes Y Su Historia.
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