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1950s / Marilyn Bell Swims Lake Ontario
On September 9, 1954, Canadian teenager Marilyn Bell became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. Some 300,000 onlookers witnessed her arrival near the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto 20 hours and 59 minutes after Bell began her swim in Youngstown, NY. Bell's feat was actually made in defiance of CNE organizers who had offered a $10,000 prize solely to American marathon swimmer Florence Chadwick. (Chadwick abandoned her effort after becoming ill. The CNE did award Bell the cash.) The straight-line distance of the swim was about 32 miles. Bell, who was a month shy of her seventeenth birthday, swam an estimated 40 miles while battling fifteen-foot waves and lamprey eels. Bell later swam both the English Channel and the Strait of Juan de Fuca before retiring from marathon swimming in 1958.