Back to Home

Feature Article - August 30, 2007

Harrowsmith's Natalie Lambert sets marathon swim record


by Meghan Balogh

In July of 2006 Jenna Lambert became the first person with a disability to swim across Lake Ontario. Because of cerebral palsy, she used only her upper body to complete the 32-kilometer swim.

Now, just over one year after her sister Jenna’s record swim, Natalie Lambert has chased her own dream and captured it. On August 28 she successfully became the youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario.

The 14-year-old set out from Sackets Harbor, New York at 10am on Monday, August 27. At 9:20am on Tuesday – less than 24 hours after her departure, and 57 kilometers later – she arrived at Kingston’s Confederation Park and was greeted by a cheering “sea of orange”, as many in the crowd wore Natalie’s favourite colour to show their support.

Natalie attempted the Lake Ontario crossing almost three weeks ago, but had to be pulled from the water due to poor swimming conditions. She got more than 18 hours into the 52-kilometer swim from Niagara on the Lake to Toronto, but 17-knot winds and 9-foot waves made completion impossible.

But this time around, the water cooperated beautifully.

For most of the swim, the lake was still and calm, and Natalie was able to maintain a speed of 3 kilometers per hour, with regular breaks to eat and drink.

Ron, Christine, and Jenna Lambert – Natalie’s parents and sister traveled aboard the SPV Proteus just far enough from Natalie to avoid sharing the boat’s wake. A zodiac and two kayaks completed the flotilla that accompanied the young swimmer during the 23  hours that she was in the water.

Vicki Keith, Natalie’s coach and a world-famous marathon swimmer herself, spent much of the time accompanying Natalie by kayak, providing her with regular snacks and water, and giving her moral  support. Natalie is hoping that with her “Swim the Difference” campaign she can help raise $52,000 for the Kingston YMCA's Y Knot Abilities program, run by Vicki Keith and her husband (also a marathon swimmer) John Munro. The program gives children with disabilities a chance to find success through achievement, in a fun and friendly environment.

Vicki and John have some Lake Ontario crossings under their collective belts, and both are amazed at the strength of body and mind that 14-year-old Natalie has displayed, and were confident in herability to succeed this time around.

As of Tuesday August 28, donations to Natalie’s campaign have surpassed  $12,000 and are still coming in. To donate to “Swim the Difference”, see www.penguinscanfly.ca.