Posts Tagged ‘Rose Pitonof’

Rose Pitonof

Rose Pitonof. circa 1910-15. Library of Congress Photo

On August 13, 2011, six swimmers will recreate an historic 1911 swim from Manhattan to Coney Island’s Steeplechase Pier. The event was organized by Deanne Draeger, who got the idea when she did the 17-mile swim last year on the 99th anniversary of a celebrated swimmer’s feat. “I’ve been thinking about it all year,” says Draeger.  “It’s a really cool event. It’s the 100th anniversary of when a 17-year-old girl, Rose Pitonof, did that swim and became Swimming Champion of the World in a time when most people – men and women – didn’t know how to swim. To give you an idea, there were 50,000 people waiting for her at Coney Island when she finished.”

The Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim will start from East 26th Street on Saturday, August 13, at 8:45 am. The swimmers will pass under the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Verrazano Bridges and will benefit from a tidal assist most of the way, says Draeger. You will be able to view them from the following vantage points. Viewing times are estimates based on the swimmers’ speed:

–East River Park, 9am on the north end of park until between 9:30-11am at the south end of the park
–Pier 14 at South Street and Brooklyn Bridge Park under the Brooklyn Side of the Brooklyn Bridge, 10:45-11:30am
— Shore Road Park under the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano Bridge, 12:45-2:45pm
–Coney Island’s shore after the swimmers round Norton’s Point, 2:45-3pm
–Steeplechase Pier, 3-6pm


Route of Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim

Each swimmer will be accompanied by a motorboat and a kayaker as a guide. “I think that starting at 26th Street and finishing at the pier in Coney Island is a great treat. I can’t imagine a better finish than the Coney Island Boardwalk,” says marathon swimmer Lori Carena, who grew up in the Bronx.

While Rose Pitonof’s nourishment consisted of a chicken sandwich and a cup of coffee, Draeger says she fueled her 2010 swim with half-hourly “Iron Cocktails,” a high carb drink with a shot of protein. This year’s swimmers, who swim at varying speeds, are expected to arrive at Steeplechase Pier between 3 and 6 pm.

Deanne Draeger. Photo by Susan Egan

Draeger, 43, tells ATZ that before she began training for Ironman in 2008, she had no athletic background. After an injury while training for her second Ironman event left her unable to cycle or run, she decided to focus on swimming. She has participated in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the Liberty Island Swim and the Brooklyn Bridge Swim, among others.

“As I was searching online for a long distance swim event, I came across an article about Rose Pitonof and her swim, and knew immediately that was what I wanted to do,” says Draeger. “The bio that I’ve put together is the first time that I’ve seen her story whole.” Her blog Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim features highlights of Rose Pitonof’s life, photos of Coney Island as it was a century ago, and info about the swim. “We are looking for volunteers, sponsors, and spectators for the centennial celebration,” writes Draeger.

Back in 1911, the New York Times hailed Pitonof as the swimming marvel from Dorchester, Massachusetts, and published a vivid account of the tumultuous reception she received in Coney Island:

From the time she first made her appearance around Norton’s Point thousands gathered along the shore to watch her progress and cheer her on to victory, and all bathing was suspended for practically the last hour of her swim. At Steeplechase Park the crowd swarmed on and around the pier to such an extent that the attendants were totally unable to hold the people in check, and it required ten minutes from the time the girl walked along the sandy beach at the end of her long swim until she was in her dressing room, less than 200 feet away. This was accomplished only by the efforts of a flying wedge of attendants, who forcibly worked their way through the human wall of thousands trying to get a glimpse of Miss Pitonof. A lane about twenty feet in width had been arranged for her arrival, but just as Miss Pitonof reached the point where she was expected to turn in, the crowd of bathers swarmed around her, and she was compelled to swim under the pier to complete her long trip.

Coney Island

Surf Bathing at Balmer's in Coney Island. Library of Congress Photo


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