Lynne Cox: A Woman of Patience, Passion and Perseverance


Lynne Cox: A Woman of Patience, Passion and Perseverance

By Sadie Jones, Swimming World Intern

Lynne Cox is a world-renowned open water swimmer, known for the amazing records she has set in the water, her bravery in trying swims not many people have even thought of attempting, and using swimming as a platform to break down political barriers. Lynne started open water swimming at the age of 14 after one of her coaches recommended she try it, and she fell in love. Lynne has been praised for her performances, which often required swimming in extremely harsh conditions. Because of this success, she is recognized as one of the best open water swimmers in the world.

She once held the record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel for both men and women, initially breaking the record with a time of 9 hours and 57 minutes. But Lynne wasn’t satisfied with that time. The following year, in 1973, she recorded an even faster time of 9 hours and 36 minutes for the 21-mile swim. 

One of her most famous swims helped bring two countries together. In 1987 Lynne became the first person to swim the 2.7 miles from Little Diomede Island, in the U.S. state of Alaska to the Big Diomede Island, in the Soviet Union. This waterway is more commonly known as the Bering Strait. Strong offshore currents and 38 degree water made this swim all the more challenging. The goal of this swim was to ease some of the tension between the two countries during the Cold War. Before Lynne completed this swim people were not permitted to go back and forth between the two islands. This swim helped break down the political borders between the United States and the Soviet Union.

“She proved by her courage how close to each other our peoples live,” Mikhail Gorbachev, The Secretary General of the Soviet Union, said about Lynne.

Her biggest goals have taken a lot of time and energy. It took Lynne 11 years to gain permission to swim the Bering Strait and 21 years for her book, “Swimming to Antarctica,” to be accepted for publication.

“Swimming across channels has taught me to keep going when I am tired, or when I have doubts. Life keeps going by,” Cox said.

Before attempting her swims, Lynne has spent years preparing and researching with her support team to help minimize risks.

“There were risks in every major swim that I attempted,” she said. “There was also the unknown. Many of the channel swims I attempted were swims that people hadn’t thought about doing.”

Lynne’s family and friends are the people that helped her reach her goals.

“They supported me when I needed help,” Cox said. “They made all the difference in my life. I have been incredibly fortunate.”

Lynne Cox and Sadie Jones

Photo Courtesy: Sadie Jones

When asked to give advice to young swimmers now, Lynne said: “Swim because you like to swim, because it is fun, because you get to make good friends, friends that will probably be your friends for all of your life.”

She encourages swimmers who cannot be in the pool right now due to the pandemic to find people who are doing open water to see if you can swim safely with them. 

Continuing to swim and bring people together through swimming, Lynne created “Swim for America.” The event started on November 4th, the day after the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. By putting on something purple like a swim cap, swimsuit or goggles and swimming wherever and whenever and sharing pictures on Facebook and Instagram, tons of people joined in and swam for America.

The event was so successful that on the fourth day of every month, we are Swimming For America. There were swimmers from all over America and around the globe who joined us. Some swam in lakes, oceans and pools. Some put their purple on and swam in the tub, shower or sink. Some weren’t swimmers so they put on something purple and walked, cycled or ran.

Lynne invites and encourages young swimmers to participate and show how much they love the sport of swimming and the country of America. On social media, use #SwimForAmerica to join in. 

Most recently Lynne Cox has been focusing on an idea she has for a new book that she hopes to have published in about a year. Through her books and telling her story of patience, passion, and perseverance, she has inspired swimmers all over the world.

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Mary Ensman
Mary Ensman
3 years ago

Hi Lynne, thank you for challenging yourself because in so doing you have inspired me and others who love open water swimming to do it our own way and to thrive and be surprised by all that we get out of it and how it inspires our daily living. I love you!

Mary Nickerson
Mary Nickerson
3 years ago

Great article about a great person! Thank you so much

Don Dight
Don Dight
3 years ago

Very interesting, Great article!

Steve Rubin
Steve Rubin
3 years ago

I still remember that incredible swim. Look forward to your new book.

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