Former Scarborough MPP and record-setting marathon swimmer, Cindy Nicholas, is being remembered for her cheerful exuberance in life and her explosiveness in the open water after her death on Thursday due to liver failure. Nicholas burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old when she set a world record crossing Lake Ontario from Youngstown, N.Y. to the Canadian National Exhibition in 15 hours and 10 minutes.
Speaking about the 58-year-old, her fellow Canadian marathon swimmer, Kim Lumsdon, stated that “she was strong, fast, a real good competitor.” Nicholas, Lumsdon, Winnipeg-born Vicki Keith and Etobicoke’s Loreen Passfield dominated distance swimming in the 1970s and 1980s. Lumsdon and Nicholas competed on the marathon swimming pro circuit and the two remained friends. According to Keith, “it’s a huge loss, not only for her family but for the entire open water swimming family,” and “she was a great inspiration for so many others.” Whereas Nicholas’s daughter, Leahanne LeGrow, revealed that her mother remained in touch with other retired swimmers over the years, including Marilyn Bell, who in 1954 became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario.
Nicholas was remembered for her passion for the sport even after becoming a lawyer and while she served as a Liberal MPP for Scarborough Centre from 1987 to 1990. The 39th Cindy Nicholas Swim Classic, an annual age-group meet, was held in January in Toronto. In her remarks on Saturday, LeGrow stated that “she was always happy and very bubbly,” adding that “she was extremely proud of her swimming accomplishments.”
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