The first woman swam the English Channel in 1926.
On August 6, 1926, 19-year-old Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the 21 miles across the English Channel in 14 hours and 31 minutes—nearly 2 hours less than any man had at that point. Ederle passed away in November 2003.
Take the anniversary of Ederle's famous swim as an opportunity to talk about today's famous athletes. Have students brainstorm a list of famous athletic competitors for both individual and team sports. There were, of course, thousands of athletes who competed in national and international events like those that Ederle competed in; however, only a few are still remembered today. Encourage students to establish criteria as a class that help make an athlete particularly memorable. Then ask your students to forecast which of today's athletes will still be remembered for their accomplishments in 75 to 100 years, as Ederle is remembered long after her famous swim across the English Channel. Students can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to create flyers that campaign for their choices.
Your students may know how to swim, but do they know the techniques used by the best swimmers? This video explains how Missy Franklin used fluid dynamics in her quest for Olympic gold in the 2012 Summer Games.
In this NPR-archived broadcast, Bob Dunkel, executive director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, reviews Ederle's lifetime of accomplishments.
Students can learn more about the early history of swimming the English Channel by exploring the online exhibition of the Dover Museum in Kent.
The Women's Sports Foundation, a charitable educational organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity, offers new fitness tips and much more at their website.