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Back In Time: Arati Saha Became The First Asian Woman To Cross The English Channel Today, In 1959

Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it had happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to relive it several years later, on the date it occurred.


29th September 1959: Bengali woman from Kolkata made India proud by achieving  an incredible sports feat- swimming across the English Channel. Arati Saha is this iron-willed lady who dared to challenge the 42-mile width of the tough waters of the English Channel. It is also called the ‘Mount Everest of Swimming’ due to its length, cold temperatures and dangers of crossing it.

Being just 19 years old at the time, she has proved that age holds no barrier to amazing sports performance. Her feat will hopefully open up new avenues of swimming opportunities for women across the world, especially our very own dear country, India.

After her first attempt, Saha’s manager Dr. Arun Gupta had fallen ill, but the young woman was undeterred in her resolve to challenge the English Channel on this day. The second race was scheduled from Cape Gris Nez, France up to Sandgate, England.

She found herself again at Cape Gris Nez aiming to reach the shore of England on the eventful day. After diving into the waters, she swam for a solid 16 hours and 20 minutes, struggling through tough waves and covering a staggering distance of 42 kilometers. She hoisted the Indian flag upon reaching Sandgate, England.

Post Scriptum

Born in 1940, Saha was admitted to Hatkhola Swimming Club at a very young age, and brought home her first gold medal in 110 yards freestyle at the age of 5. Her stardom in swimming skyrocketed since then, and between 1945 and 1951 she won 22 state-level competitions in West Bengal

In 1948 she broke the all-India record of Dolly Nazir by clocking 1 minute 37.6 seconds in 100 m breaststroke. Her international journey began at the Helsinki Summer Olympics in 1952, from where she moved towards her peak glory.


Read More: Back In Time: 17 Years Ago On This Day The First Autistic Pride Day Was Celebrated


Saha’s training was taken up by Brojen Das and Mihir Sen, the former being the first Asian to cross the English Channel not once, but 6 times. It was Brojen who recommended Arati’s name for the English Channel event.

Extensive fund-raising events were organized to get her to the competition, and even West Bengal Chief Minister Bidhan Chandra Ray and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent support.

In one of Arati’s toughest training days, she managed to swim for 16 hours at Deshbandhu Park, where she sprinted the last 70 meters and did not show any sign of fatigue.

When she reached England, she trained for the last few days under Dr. Bimal Chandra. The first one was in vain, but on the next attempt, she left a glorious trail inspiring future swimmers to achieve great feats.

Arati Saha’s feat prompted accolades from many eminent personalities, and on 30th September, All India Radio broadcasted her achievement.

She won the Padma Shri Award in 1960, and in 1999 the Department of Posts commemorated her feat by introducing a postage stamp of Rs. 3 denomination. Saha passed away due to acute jaundice and encephalitis on 23rd August 1994, while leaving behind a trail of inspiration.


Disclaimer: This article is fact-checked

Sources: Femininism In India, Times Now, India Times

Image sources: Google Images

Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth

Find The Blogger: shoomedha

This post is tagged under: arati saha english channel, arati saha first asian woman to cross the english channel, swimming sportswoman of india, swimming, swimmer, crossing the english channel in 16 hours, back in time, 63 years back, sports feat, swimming feat, strong women of india, odds-defying sports achivement

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.


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