Swim England

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Swim England inducts Mercedes Gleitze into its Hall of Fame

The first British woman to swim the English Channel has been inducted into the Swim England Hall of Fame – on the day a new film celebrating her remarkable achievement and life is launched in cinemas nationwide.

Mercedes Gleitze was only the sixth person to conquer the channel when she swam from France to England on 7 October 1927 in a time of 15 hours 15 minutes.

However, doubts were initially cast on her success as another swimmer claimed to have achieved the same feat.

It forced Mercedes to take on another channel swim, even though the water was much colder than it should have been to make the attempted crossing.

Although she failed to complete the challenge, her endurance of the freezing water was enough to convince that her original record should stand.

The film, Vindication Swim, released on Friday 8 March, details Mercedes’ battle to retain her record and legacy – and serves as a poignant reminder of the indomitable spirit of a woman who dared to dream beyond the confines of her era.

Andy Salmon, chief executive of Swim England, said Mercedes was a worthy inclusion in the Hall of Fame.

He said: “Mercedes was an open water swimming pioneer who was an inspirational figure to so many.

“It’s fitting that Mercedes is inducted into our Hall of Fame on a day when a film celebrating her life and achievements is released and on International Women’s Day, too.

“While she is rightly honoured as being the first British woman to complete an English Channel swim, Mercedes achieved so much more in open water swimming.

“Her accomplishments will forever be remembered.”

Born in Brighton on 18 November 1900, Mercedes worked as a secretary in London before becoming a professional long-distance swimmer.

Following her English Channel success, on 5 April 1928 she became the first person to swim the Strait of Gibraltar in 12 hours and 50 minutes.

She also specialised in endurance swims, extending the British record several times before completing 47 hours in the Corporation Baths, Worthing, between 18 and 20 May 1933.

Wonderful recognition

Mercedes married her husband, Patrick Carey, on 9 August 1930 and retired from swimming in 1933.

The couple had three children and five grandchildren before Mercedes died on 9 February 1981, aged 80.

Vindication Swim director, Elliott Hasler, said: “Mercedes Gleitze was such a huge icon of her time and has such potential to inspire all those who come into contact with her story.

“So, to reignite her legacy both through Vindication Swim and with this wonderful recognition from Swim England is just fantastic.

“It’s perfect timing for both to be coinciding with International Women’s Day, as Mercedes is such a remarkable woman who deserves to be celebrated on a day like this.”

Kirsten Callaghan, who plays Mercedes in Vindication Swim, said: “Mercedes Gleitze had an indomitable spirit and it was an honour to play such an extraordinary woman.

“Through embodying Mercedes, I have been inspired to take greater risks in my own life and I hope her story empowers many future generations to come.”

To see a list of cinemas nationwide showing Vindication Swim, please click here.

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