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Remembering Cindy Nicholas, C.M.

Cindy Nicholas was the first woman to complete a non-stop, two-way crossing of the Channel in 1977, finishing in the quickest time of any male or female swimmer (Photo by Ken Jones)

University of Toronto Scarborough alumna Cindy Nicholas, the legendary and record-breaking open water swimmer and former MPP, has died.

The celebrated Toronto athlete was known for her record-setting solo crossings of the English Channel in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  She was the first woman to complete a non-stop, two-way crossing of the Channel in 1977, finishing in the quickest time of any male or female swimmer.  She swam the Channel 19 times, including five two-way crossings, earning her the nickname Queen of the Channel.

Nicholas became an overnight celebrity at age 16, when she swam across Lake Ontario from Youngstown, NY to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

Over the course of her swimming career she was recognized with honours including the Bobbie Rosenfield Award as Canadian Press female athlete of the year in 1977, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1979. Nicholas was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005. 

After graduating from U of T Scarborough in 1979, Nicholas set her sights on a career in law and later entered politics as the MPP for Scarborough Centre and as Parliamentary Assistant for the Solicitor General before returning to her Scarborough-based law practice.

“Cindy Nicholas was a national and a local hero.  She was a passionate champion for sport and for Scarborough, always proud of her local roots. Cindy leaves a tremendous legacy, and for that we are grateful, says U of T Scarborough Principal Bruce Kidd. “I will personally miss the many conversations we had about Canadian sport—she always had good ideas about how to make it better.” 

Nicholas was the first recipient of the Scarborough Award of Merit, and was honoured with a star on the Scarborough Walk of Fame in 2006.  Her leadership in sports and the local community is recognized with the annual Cindy Nicholas Swim Classic, which will mark 40 years in 2017, hosted by the Scarborough Swim Club and now held at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre at U of T Scarborough. Her dream of an Olympic pool at the campus was realized at the 2015 Pan Am & Parapan American Games, which she attended with the University.

 




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