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69-year-old Paula Kankauskas completes historic Lake Memphremagog swim

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NEWPORT –– Paula Kankauskas, 69, of Hyde Park, has carved her name in open water swimming history books by swimming the 25-mile length of Lake Memphremagog. Embarking from the EastSide Restaurant in Newport, on Sunday at 5:58 pm, she conquered the chilling waters to emerge victorious in Magog, Quebec, on Monday at 3:48 pm.

Kankauskas’s remarkable achievement took 21 hours and 50 minutes, with her swim adhering strictly to traditional channel crossing rules. This meant wearing only a bathing suit, swim cap, goggles, and earplugs. Every 45 minutes, she would stop briefly for nourishment.

The weather throughout the swim varied with water temperatures fluctuating between 68 to 72 F and air temperatures ranging from a night chill of 53 F to a daytime warmth of 75 F.

With this swim, Paula achieved the honor of becoming the oldest person to complete the swim by traditional rules. Dan Shub, 70, completed the swim in 2017 but wore a wetsuit. Paula’s endurance in the open waters even surpassed Pat Gallant-Charrette, who swam Lake Memphremagog at the age of 68 in 2019.

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But the journey wasn’t without its challenges. In the midst of her swim, cold took a toll on her energy. Morning brought a dense fog, making navigation a significant challenge until 11 am. Following the fog’s clearance, Paula made a strategic decision to conclude her swim in Magog.

Paula’s swim turned into a tribute, marking her exceptional career in open water swimming. Starting as a 3-mile, wetsuit swimmer in 2009, Paula evolved into a formidable open water athlete. By day, she’s a revered veterinarian, but once in the waters, she becomes an emblem of determination and resilience, taking on some of the sport’s most challenging routes.

Having previously swum Catalina, 20 Bridges around Manhattan Island, and the English Channel, Paula became a “Triple Crowner” in 2018 at 64. Despite initially aiming for a 50-mile double cross of Lake Memphremagog, she wisely decided to end her swim at a single crossing.

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