Greta Andersen

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Greta Andersen won the 1957 Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swim in 11 hours, a new women's record with trainer Sam Rockett looking on
Greta Andersen originally from Denmark and a citizen of the USA is a 1964 Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame for her extraordinary record as a professional marathon swimmer and is a 1969 inductee in the International Swimming Hall of Fame for her prowess in the pool as an Olympic medalist. She was also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the World Open Water Swimming Association and a member of the 24-hour club and was a member of the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation.

Andersen won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and a silver medal in 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay in the 1948 London Olympics. She was fourth in 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay and eighth in the 400-meter freestyle at the 1952 Olympics. She held world records from 100 yards in 1949 to 50 miles in 31 hours in 1962, from Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA. She won 13 world championships, set 72 amateur competitive swimming records and is a multi-time member of the 24-hour club.


English Channel

Andersen swam the English Channel five times, winning the famous Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swims twice in 1957 and 1958 in 10 hours and 59 minutes, and winning the women’s event from 1957 to 1959. She completed a double-crossing of the English Channel.

Catalina Channel

Andersen was the first person to complete a double-crossing of the Catalina Channel in 1958 in 26 hours 53 minutes. She completed four crossings of the Catalina Channel, including the first double-crossing of an Oceans Seven channel in 1958, an 11 hour 7 minute crossing in 1959 and a 1972 crossing at the age of 45.


International Swimming Hall of Fame

Andersen's induction description in the International Swimming Hall of Fame is as follows:

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1948 gold (100m freestyle), silver (4x100m freestyle relay); 1952 4th (4x100m freestyle relay), 8th (400m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: extended from 100 yard (1949) to 50 miles (Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1962); Swam English Channel both ways; First person to swim a major channel both ways (Catalina Channel).

In modern times when most girls stay at the top of swimming only about long enough to turn their hair green, green-eyed Greta Andersen's, 20 years as a world class competitive swimmer, is a notable exception.

During this period, she has swum more than 10,000 miles, averaging 800 miles a year. It is ironic that Andersen, the world's greatest woman distance swimmer, achieved Olympic fame as a sprinter. Her world records extend from the 100 yards (1949) to 50 miles (Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1962). She won the Olympic Gold Medal for Denmark in the 100 meter sprint at London in 1948, came back in the 1952 Olympics at Helsinki to make the finals at 400 meters, swimming with the use of only one leg, having undergone knee surgery just before the games. Miss Andersen's long course 100 yard world record (58.2) was set in 1949 and was not broken until 1956, by which time she was setting a 10 mile world record in California's Salton Sea (4 hours 25 minutes) and a 25 mile world record around Atlantic City, New Jersey (10 hours, 17 minutes).

Greta is most famous as a channel swimmer, holding the women's speed records both ways in the English Channel (France to England, 11 hours, 1 minute) (England to France, 13 hours, 10 minutes). She also has the somewhat less envious distinction of the woman spending the longest time in the water on a channel attempt (23 hours in an unsuccessful 1964 attempt to swim the channel round trip, non-stop). Six years earlier, Miss Andersen was the first person to swim a major channel both ways (Santa Catalina, where she holds both the one way and the round trip records for all comers, men as well as women).

Now operating a California swim school that bears her name, Miss Andersen is 5'8 1/2" and 141 lbs. distributed over a 38-26-39. For cold water marathon swims, she lets her weight go up to 160. Her success at that weight has made her the largest money winner in women's professional swimming history. Miss Andersen was the first woman to consistently beat most of the men and frequently beat all of the men in her races, a marathon practice since followed by American Marty Sinn and Holland's Judy DeNys.

Andersen has been first to raise this interesting speculation. If women can compete favorably with the top men at marathon distances, why shouldn't they be able to swim as fast as the men at the long and middle distances popular in amateur swimming?

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