An Australian marathon swimmer has been crowned “Queen of the English Channel” after making history with her 44th swim across the Dover Strait.
The endurance athlete waved as she strode ashore near Pointe de la Courte Dune on the French coast after a gruelling 10-hour swim across from Kent.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to celebrate this swim,” McCardel said, wrapped in an Australian flag, after her record-breaking swim.
She said she felt “really good” despite having battled breathing difficulties caused by a chest infection in the past several days.
“I’m so thankful, I’ve had so much support from people across the UK and Australia to get me through this last 12 years,” she said.
“So many people helped along the way to make my dreams come true and hopefully I can inspire the next generation of open water swimmers and young people to go after their dreams.”
“It’s been a really tough journey,” she added, “but I’ve persisted”.
Setting off from Kent in the early hours of Wednesday, the endurance athlete tackled the 33.6 kilometres separating Calais from the English coast.
McCardel, who only learned to swim aged 11, now looks at the Channel as her “spiritual home”.
She has said that by taking on the gruelling crossing so many times, she wants to inspire girls and show that anything is possible.
She said: “I think sometimes women don’t get recognised for their achievements as much as they should – to have female role models has been amazing for me and I really hope I can be that for other women and girls.”
The English Channel is a challenging swim, with an array of variables.
Changing tides can effectively add extra distance and waves can reach two metres high, while the waters also host a stream of cargo ships and ferries.
McCardel holds the world record for the longest unassisted ocean swim – 124 kilometres from South Eleuthera Island to Nassau in the Bahamas.
She also made a non-stop triple crossing of the English Channel in 2015, which took almost 37 hours.