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Pint-sized teen becomes the first to swim Lake Ontario

In 1891 at a YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., a Canadian athletic instructor invented a simple game involving a ball tossed into a peach basket. It would take nearly a century for basketball to gain worldwide prominence and develop its own culture, fashion and vibe. Along the way, Canadians have played a huge role in popularizing the sport, on the street, in gyms and in the professional ranks.

(poor audio) On Sept. 8, 1954, a 16-year-old named Marilyn Bell shocks the experts and throws the whole sporting world in a tizzy when she becomes the first person ever to swim across Lake Ontario. When asked about her record-breaking swim, Bell recalls the lake being very rough, cold and full of eels. But, Bell tells CBC Television, she was encouraged by supporters "pulling for her" in and out of the water.

Her amazing success kicks off a renewed interest in Canada for long-distance swimming and a newfound respect for female marathon athletes.
• Marilyn Bell began her historical Lake Ontario swim at 11 p.m. on Sept. 8, 1954. By the time she finished her swim the next evening, about 100,000 people had gathered at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto to greet Bell.
• Due to poor conditions, Bell veered off course and ended up swimming much further than the 51.5-kilometre (32-mile) route straight across Lake Ontario.

• Bell became the youngest person to swim across the English Channel on July 31, 1955.
• On Aug. 23, 1956, Bell became the first woman to conquer the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
• Bell was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Aquatic Hall of Fame.
• Bell was born on Nov. 9, 1937, in Toronto, Ont.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Sept. 10, 1954
Guest(s): Marilyn Bell
Duration: 3:12
This clip has poor audio

Last updated: August 23, 2012

Page consulted on August 23, 2012

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