The Yorkshire swimmer who in 1950 became the first woman to cross the English Channel, has described the American cancer survivor who performed the feat four times non-stop, as being “way out of my league”.
Eileen Fenton, a scripture teacher from Dewsbury, was 21 when she set the first record for the swim, at 15hrs 31mins.
She said the new time of 54 hours for the double-return journey, achieved by Sarah Thomas, 37, was “outstanding”.
Miss Fenton, who now lives in Wakefield, said: “I should think it will be a long time before anyone beats that.”
Ms Thomas, from Colorado, said she felt “really tired” after completing the challenge. She was cheered to shore at Dover and handed champagne and chocolates as her swim ended at dawn yesterday. She had completed treatment for breast cancer a year ago.
Miss Fenton, who had not been in the sea before her Channel swim, save for a race in Morecambe Bay, said: “We did no training – we didn’t know how. There was a war on.
“These days they train for these long swims in the great American lakes. But the Channel is still well-known for being the most entertaining swim.”