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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mercedes Gleitze Honoured In Cork, Ireland

Mercedes Gleitze wrote many years ago, "Sea swimming is a beautiful thing, in fact an art. An art whose mistress should be not the few, but the many.

What could possibly speak more for man's prowess as an athlete than the ability to master earth's most abundant, most powerful element - water, no matter what its mood
." Gleitze's daughter Doloranda Hannah Pember read these words to the audience at the 2013 International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremonies held in Cork, Ireland last night where Gleitze was honoured. One of the most prolific and storied open water athletes of all time, Gleitze was inducted in the Hall of Fame as an Honour Pioneer Swimmer.

With representatives of the marathon swimming community around the world attending the gala dinner, it was touching to see Ms. Pember accept the award on behalf of her mother.

"She really did not tell us much about her career as a swimmer," she recalls. "In fact, she swam when she was pregnant with her first child, which in those days was unheard of. But she did so much to open up things for women."

Earlier this year, Gleitze was also remembered in a document film, Mercedes: The Spirit of a New Age, a film produced by filmmaker Clare Delargy.

Among the many firsts that Gleitze attempted and accomplished was a promotion for products while she was swimming. "She wore the first waterproof watch, a Rolex [called The Oyster] around her neck during her English Channel swim," recalls Nuala Moore.

Delargy's extensive research and skills in film-making and storytelling created a rich visual documentary about the renowned British typist-turned-swimmer. "The documentary was stunning," recalled Moore. "The film showcased testimonials from so many people.

They told of a woman who was so filled with belief, courage and the need to make a difference. [Modern-day swimmers] plan for so much now. Swimmers want everything down to the minutia. [In contrast], Mercedes took risks beyond comprehension. She endured risks of judgment at a time when women wore corsets, when women did not expose themselves to such vulnerability, to failure to criticism yet she continued with such dignity and poise.

She never gave up. Even Doloranda said that the North Channel was her biggest regret. She always felt that it was possible.

Not that she didn't cross it, but mainly as after seven attempts - 4 on the Mull of Galloway and 3 on the Mull of Kintyre - but that was she was so close, only a mile from Scotland more than once

The film of the Honour Pioneer Swimmer also shows vintage footage of Gleitze taking on the Strait of Gibraltar for the first time in human history, from both sides of the Strait. "The actress who plays Mercedes is Aine McCreesh, the daughter of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association's Margaret McCreesh so that was special. She portrayed Mercedes with such elegance and poise."

The ties to the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association were numerous. President Billy Wallace, who was present at the induction ceremony, recalled that his mother lifeguarded for Mercedes when she swam in Northern Ireland.

Brian Meharg, also at the induction ceremony, was integral in the documentary with the documentation he has kept. Ireland's Anne Marie Ward, another participant in the 2103 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, could sympathize with Gleitze's numerous attempts that ended without walking upon onshore as she faced the brutality of the North Channel 3 times before achieving success.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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