Le Marathon du Saguenay from Chicoutimi to Bagotville

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Le Marathon du Saguenay was a 45 km professional marathon swim held on the Saguenay River from Chicoutimi to Bagotville in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, Canada. The event was sanctioned by the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation in the 1960s and 1970s.

At the start of the 1968 race of 45 km organized by the Club de Natation de Saguenay, 8,000 spectators cheered on the crème de la crème of the professional marathon swimming world in Chicoutimi and another estimated crowd of 7,000 onlookers greet 15 finishers who had braved 12.7°C – 15.5°C (55-60°F) water.

For an era that outlawed drafting and pack swimming, the race results showed an incredible competitive battle among the world’s bests.

1968 Le Marathon du Saguenay Results:
1. Abdel Latif Abou Heif (Egypt) 9 hours 10 minutes ($1,700)
2. Judith De Nys (Holland) 9 hours 10 minutes 23 seconds ($1,000)
3. Regent Lacoursiere (Canada) 9 hours 10 minutes 24 seconds ($700)
4. George Park (Canada) 9 hours 10 minutes 25 seconds ($400)
5. Horacio Iglesias (Argentina) 9 hours 10 minutes 35 seconds ($250)
6. Dennis Matuch (USA) 9 hours 10 minutes 37 seconds ($200)
7. Steven Ramsden (Canada) 9 hours 20 minutes ($175)
8. Roberto Reta (Argentina) 9 hours 23 minutes ($150)
9. Ab Sherbeny (Egypt) 9 hours 23 minutes 1 second ($125)
10. Mahmoud Hassan (Egypt) 9 hours 30 minutes ($100)
11. Gilles Potvin (Canada) 9 hours 43 minutes 40 seconds ($125)
12. Conrad Corbell (Canada) 9 hours 48 minutes 47 seconds
13. Margaret Park (Canada) 9 hours 53 minutes 58 seconds
14. Robert Cossette (Canada) 10 hours 0 minutes 15 seconds
15. François Asselin (Canada) 10 hours 18 minutes 23 seconds

DNF included Hedy Smidt, Pedro Goimez, Roger Piché, Marc Riberdy, Tom Bucy, and Ralph Willard.

International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Coach Gilles Potvin spoke with International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame chairman Ned Denison about that race during his WOWSA Live interview:

In a 1969 Sports Illustrated article about Le Marathon du Saguenay, the author sums up the difficulty of the race, “Chicoutimi…aaaaagh! That is the sound the winners make. The losers…. On second thought, even the winners at Chicoutimi are losers. (Which, in a perverse way, if suffering is a virtue, as it often seems to be with marathon swimmers, also makes the losers winners.) About 28 miles all told, the course begins at Chicoutimi, heads down the Saguenay River for 18 miles, then parallels two or three miles of tidal, rocky shore that each year leaves a few swimmers looking as if they had been keelhauled. It is either that or the rips, a meeting of currents off the rocks that at certain tides looks like one of those miniature basins they put toy ships in when they want to film a real storm at sea.

Those who make it by either the rocks or the rips enter a big bay—which, for no reason that leaps to mind, is called Ha! Ha! Bay—with more unpredictable tides. Seven miles up the bay is Bagotville—the finish. In 1969 the 22 best marathoners in the world started the race. None finished.”

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