A story that is ideal for this time of the academic year. It shares the importance of goal-setting, endurance and perseverance.
When she looked ahead, Florence Chadwick saw nothing but a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming for almost sixteen hours.
Florence was already the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions and now, at the age of 34, she was trying to become the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California. The year was 1952, the sea was icy and the fog so dense that she could barely make out her support boats a few metres away. Sharks cruised towards her and were frightened away by rifle shots. She struggled on in the freezing, heaving sea, hour after hour, watched by millions on national television. Her mother and trainer screamed encouragement from the boat alongside. They kept telling her that it wasn’t much further, they urged her not to give up – but all she could see was the impenetrable fog. It was like swimming into a brick wall. Finally, with about one kilometre to go, Florence asked to be pulled out of the water.
Several hours later, still shaking from the cold, she said to a reporter, “Look, I’m not making excuses, but if I could just have seen the land, I might have made it.” It was not exhaustion or even the freezing sea that had defeated her. It was the fog. She had been unable to see her goal.
Two months later, she tried again. This time, despite the same fog, she swam with belief and determination. The difference was, however, that she swam with her goal clearly visible in her mind. She knew for certain that, beyond the fog was the land. She could see it in her mind. Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, beating the men’s record by more than two hours.