Irving Davids/Captain Roger W. Wheeler Memorial Award

1976 Aquatique Club du lac St. Jean

 

Early in the 1950’s, Martin Bédard, a native of Roberval, Quebec, Canada, while contemplating lac St-Jean dreamt that someday, someone would conquer this vast watery expanse and swim, in a single stretch, the 32 km distance that separates the municipalities of Péribonka and Roberval. Bédard started talking to friends and experts. No one took him seriously, being convinced that such a feat was virtually impossible. Like all pioneers, Martin Bédard was tenacious and soon developed a plan.

 

On July 23rd, 1955, seven swimmers signed up for the very first crossing of lac St-Jean. Of the seven swimmers present at the departure in Vauvert, only Jacques Amyot, a swimmer from Quebec City, completed the 32 km marathon. Despite the threat of winds, waves and violent thunderstorms, he managed to reach the shore in Roberval where he was welcomed by the admiring and incredulous stares of the many supporters there to greet him. As he climbed out of the water, Jacques Amyot asked for ice cream! Later, when questioned about what had motivated him to finish the race in such bad weather, Amyot replied, “Well, I couldn’t get into the boat that accompanied me because there was no room!”

 

The start was moved from Vauvert to Peribonka where it remains today.

 

In 1958, at the 4th Traversée, the first group of participants from outside Canada took part in the event. Greta Anderson (IMSHOF 1964, ISHOF 1969), a young Danish woman from the United States, won the marathon.

 

In the 1970’s, Olympic athletes, who were trained to swim in pools, made their appearance in the open water discipline. From 1974 to 1979, American, John Kinsella (IMSHOF 1978, ISHOF 1986), won the 32 km marathon for 6 consecutive years.

 

The Traversée International du lac St. Jean became the organization entrusted with the staging of seven open water events at the elite and amateur levels. It was hailed as a model of organization, professionalism and support offer to the athletes.

 

In 1976 the organization was presented the Irving Davids / Captain Roger W. Wheeler Memorial Award for its contribution to the administration of open water swimming.

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