| Jul 23, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - July 23, 2009 Cold water postpones marathon swimBy Julie Druker

For the fourth time, adverse circumstances have thwarted 15-year-old marathon swimmer

Natalie Lambert of Harrowsmith’s bid to complete the traditional crossing of Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto.

In 2007 Natalie broke records by becoming the youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario, successfully completing a 54 km marathon swim from Sackets Harbour, New York to Kingston. She also set a speed record on that historic swim.

This Monday July 20, Natalie was set to swim 52 km from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto but called it off when she and her team of 30 friends and family, including her coach Vicki Keith, received a warning of very low water temperatures in Lake Ontario.

Natalie said, “ We were told that 10 miles off the Toronto shore the water was only 56 degrees F, which would mean swimming for 6 to 7 hours in very unreasonable conditions.”

Instead Natalie and members of her team sailed from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto along the route she had planned to take, monitoring the water conditions along the way. She and her team were still hoping they could attempt the swim in reverse, starting instead from Toronto if the water temperatures had improved. No such luck, as Natalie explained. “For about 26 kilometres of the route the temperatures were between 50 and 55 degrees; occasionally they even dropped down to 43 degrees, so we knew it wasn’t going to happen. Normally in July the majority of my swim would be in 66-68 degree water.”

The marathon swim was planned to raise money for the Kingston Y Knot Abilities program, a Kingston YMCA athletic program founded by Natalie’s coach Vicki Keith for children with physical disabilities and their siblings.

Natalie and her sister Jenna are members of the program. Jenna has cerebral palsy and is well known for her 36km swim from Long Point, NY to Kingston in the summer of 2006.

Natalie has attempted the Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto swim three times now. During her first attempt in 2007, after swimming 43 km, 3-metre waves forced her out of the water. In 2008, a second attempt was cancelled due to lightning and her third later that summer also ended due to physical illness.

Natalie is still determined to make this swim. Just recently on July 9 she completed a 20km swim of Lake Erie from Crystal Beach to Sturgeon Point and when I spoke to her on Tuesday she was at Lake Ontario preparing for a one-hour training swim.

Natalie is keeping her sights focused on the cause. “The Kingston Y Knot program does wonders in building self confidence and life skills for children. Being part of it has really benefited my sister and me and I am hoping by these swims to spread awareness and hopefully see the program spread to all of the YMCAs in North America and beyond.”

With any luck the sun will shine long and hard for the remainder of the summer, not only raising the water temperatures in Lake Ontario but also the funds to be raised for a worthy cause.

For more information or to make a donation please visit www.penguinscanfly.ca.

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