1978, The Year That Was
“When I was swimming in college, the thought of drowning never crossed my mind,” said Olympic champion John Kinsella. “Now, I’m aware there’s a danger.”
Kinsella said that after his 13 hour 49 minute victory at the 1978 Lake Ontario professional marathon race.
“When the thunderstorm hit 90 minutes from the finish, I was disappearing under those 9-foot waves. Competitive swimming and marathon swimming are two completely different sports. The only thing they have in common is the fact that you’re swimming. Everything else is different.”
Kinsella should know. He not only won a silver medal at the 1968 Olympics and a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics, but he also had a stellar career in Hinsdale Central High School and Indiana University.
But in the summer of 1978, Kinsella was on a tear, winning 7 races around the world. His races were not the only major marathon swims completed in 1978. There were lots of incredible swims and races held around the world, including the English Channel. The 1978 race was won by Alawi Makki of Saudi Arabia in 9 hours 54 minutes.
But there are few swims in the English Channel that were as dominant as Penny Dean‘s record-breaking swim in 1978. The future professor and coach broke Nasser Elshazly‘s then-existing England-to-France record of 8 hours 45 minutes with a 7 hour 40 minute crossing.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Walter Poenisch created his legacy with the first recorded Speedo Diplomacy, his Swim for Peace, a swim of 128.8 miles (207.2 km) in 34 hours 15 minutes. The 65-year-old’s achievement was the reason why he was announced yesterday as an Honor Swimmer in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old John York completed a 16 hours 42 minute double crossing of the Catalina Channel in the summer.
It was quite a year, 1978.
Photo shows Dan Slosberg swimming towards the California coast on his 19 hour 32 minute double crossing of the Catalina Channel.
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