This week in Florida, Clifford Douglas “Cliff” Lumsdon Jr. will be entered into the International Swimming Hall of Fame for his illustrious career as a cold water specialists and professional marathon swimmer.
The five-time world champion between 1949 and 1954 was famous for his ability to swim in cold water, once going 51.5 km (32 miles) in 18-plus hours in water temperatures ranging between 8.8° – 11.1°C (48°F – 52°F). And he made it worthwile – he once won $84,000 for his 1955 Canadian National Exhibition swim.
He became a professional swimmer at the precocious age of 16. 2 years later in 1949, Lumsdon won the world marathon championship when he defeated 46 competitors in the 15-mile race at the Canadian National Exhibition. He won $6,300 — $5,500 for winning the race and $800 for leading all laps and swimming the fastest lap.
He was later awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete of 1949.
Lumsdon went on, especially establishing his dominance the colder the water became. He won four more marathon races at the Canadian National Exhibition including a 32-mile race along the Lake Ontario shoreline in 1955. Lumsdon was the only one of 29 starters to complete the course, particularly impressive since no other swimmer even made it to half-way. Lumsdon won $15,000 for his victory, plus thousands more in bonus money.
After two second-place finishes in previous years, Lumsdon won the 26-mile Atlantic City Around the Island marathon race in 1956. A month later, he became the second swimmer, after Bert Thomas, to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca in British Columbia. He retired in 1965 with career earnings of $152,000.
He coached his daughter, Kim Lumsdon, who was also a top marathon swimmer, and accompanied her during her swim across Lake Ontario in 1976. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, received the Order of Ontario in 1989, and was a recipient of the Order of Canada in 1982. In 1988, a park in Toronto was named Cliff Lumsdon Park in his honour. He is the namesake for the Cliff Lumsdon Award, presented for outstanding achievement in marathon swimming in Ontario. Lumsdon died in 1991 at age 60.
His induction this year is most definitely a well-deserved honor.
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