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Florence Chadwick I

When she was young, Florence Chadwick wanted desperately to be a great speed swimmer. At the age of six she persuaded her parents to enter her in a 50-yard race. She came in last, so she practiced every day for the new year. Again she entered and lost. When she was an 11-year old, Florence won attention and praise for completing the San Diego Bay endurance swim—6 miles in all. But she still wanted to be a speed swimmer. At 14 she tried for the national backstroke championship but came in second to the great Eleanor Holm. At 18 she tried out for Olympic speed swimming and came in fourth—only three made the team. Frustrated, she gave it up, married, and moved on to other interests. As she matured, however, Florence began to wonder if she might not have done better if she had specialized in endurance swimming, something that came more naturally. So, with the help of her father, she began swimming distances again. Twelve years after she had failed to make the Olympic team, Florence Chadwick swam the English Channel, breaking Gertrude Ederle’s 24-year-old record. It took a little time, but eventually she found out what she could do best and did it.

Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 19.