As a child, Elizabeth Beisel loved to swim in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rhode Island.
She kept swimming as she got older, making it to the Olympics three times and winning a silver medal at the 2012 London Games. Recently, she returned to the shores of her home state to complete a historic event in honor of one very important person.
Elizabeth’s father, Ted Beisel, lost a short battle with pancreatic cancer in July 2021. Determined to pay tribute to the man who fought so hard while never complaining, Elizabeth set her sights on swimming from the Rhode Island mainland to Block Island, which is located 10.4 miles away across open ocean.
“As a child growing up in Rhode Island and swimming in the ocean along our beautiful coastline, I always dreamed of swimming to Block Island,” Elizabeth said. “I envisioned my dad on the island waiting for me to finish with an ear-to-ear grin on his face — how proud he would be that I made it.”
No woman had ever accomplished this feat before, but that didn’t stop the Olympian from forging on!
Elizabeth worked with a team of trainers swimming three to four hours a day to build up the stamina she needed to make the swim. For reference, the endeavor is 50 times longer than the 400-meter medley that earned her a silver medal! The route takes between five and seven hours to complete, and athletes must contend with tides, currents, and bad weather.
Ted knew about her goal before he passed away, and he insisted she not “make it about him.” Instead, Elizabeth united with the nonprofit Swim Across America, which hosts charity swims to raise money for cancer research, prevention, and treatment.
They formed an event called Block Cancer with a goal of raising just $5,000.
The Block Cancer fundraiser pulled in far more than their original goal. So far, they’ve raised $134,000! All of the money will be donated to Rhode Island hospitals, including the one where Elizabeth’s dad received treatment.
“I’ll never get to hug him again, but his fight wasn’t for nothing,” Elizabeth said. “I know that my dad’s battle, along with the money raised by Block Cancer, will save someone’s life one day. He is smiling knowing we helped give someone and their family the most precious gift of all time.”
On September 25, 2021, Elizabeth made the swim across the sea to Block Island, making history as the first-ever woman to do so. She was greeted by cheering friends and family, and she’s positive her dad was celebrating right along with her.
The Olympian said this was “hands down, by far, the most meaningful swim I will ever do in my life.”
This athlete turned a painful loss into a tremendous gain for so many others, making history and raising the bar in the process. She is what a true hero looks like!
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