Gertrude Ederle, Olympic Champion and Gritty New Yorker

July 30, 2012 12:00 AM

Gertrude Ederle, Olympic Champion and Gritty New Yorker

" It was 1924 and the Olympics were being held in Paris. That’s when a 19-year-old woman from New York City emerged on the world stage. She was a swimming phenomenon and the Olympics were just the beginning of a fantastic career.

Her name was Gertrude Ederle, known as Trudy by her friends and fans. Her father was a butcher, a German immigrant who owned a shop on Amsterdam Avenue. Her mother, Anna, taught Gertrude how to swim at the summer cottage they owned in Highlands, New Jersey. Gertrude was a natural. She loved the water and fell in love with swimming as a toddler.

At the 1924 Olympics, Ederle won a gold medal and two bronze medals, setting a world record time of 4:58:08 in a relay race. When Ederle turned pro in 1925, she had 29 world and U.S. records.

Then she undertook the athletic challenge of her life -- the swim across the English Channel. As New York Times writer Richard Severo put it, Ederle became a symbol of the Roaring 20’s, a darling of the American public with as much clout as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Bill Tilden and Red Grange "

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