Doug Northway, An Unexpected Triumph In The 1984 Traversée

Photo courtesy of Nasser ElShazly, lac St-Jean, Quebec, Canada.

The 30th Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean on July 29th 1984 in Quebec, Canada had a collection of swimmers that included several with long, illustrious careers.

But the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation-sanctioned race was led from start to finish by an unlikely swimmer from the state of Arizona.

First row (left to right): Christine Cossette, James Kegley, Philip Rush, Paul Asmuth, Nasser ElShazly, Monique Wildschut, Claudio Plit
Second row (left to right): Suzanne Tremblay, Guillermo Zavala, Steven Munatones, Mohamed El Messery, Irene van der Laan
Third row (left to right): Sultan Kigab, Bill Schmidt, Doug Northway, Antonio Davalos, Ossama Rachad
Back row: Robert Lachance

Doug Northway won the race in 7 hour 37 minutes, upsetting Paul Asmuth and Claudio Plit. Monique Wildschut just outsprinted Philip Rush to take fourth, 4 tenths of a second ahead of him. Christine Cossette completed the first two-way crossing of lac St-Jean swimming the first length in 9 hours 28 minutes and the return length in 8 hours 59 minutes for a total time of 18 hours 27 minutes.

Of the competitors in that race, Cossette, Kegley, Rush, Amsuth, ElShazly, Wildschut, Plit, Munatones, and van der Laan eventually were honored by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

Doug, a two-time Olympian and medalist, had long been a talented swimmer, but the 1984 race was the swim of his professional marathon swimming career,” remembers Munatones. “Like many others on the 1984 circuit, he was pulled from the Around the Island Swim in Atlantic City a few weeks before with hypothermia. In the 1983 Traversée, he had only lasted 34 minutes in the cold. In the 1982 Traversée, he only swam for 2 hours in lac St-Jean, and in the 1981 Traversée he was pulled after a mere 1 hour 20 minutes in the qualifying swim – so he never even got to swim. With that track record in lac St-Jean, his victory came as a big surprise. But the multi-lingual Northway was entertaining, self-effacing and hilarious in greeting the media and fans after the race.”

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