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Woman becomes first Latina to swim Lake Tahoe’s length


By María Palma

Cynthia Aguilar on Sunday became the first Mexican woman and Latina to swim the 21.3 mile length of Lake Tahoe. She was crewed by coach Fernando Quintana and the swim was certified by Katie Blessington of the Lake Tahoe Open Water Swimming Association. 

At 7 p.m. on July 31, Aguilar began the swim from the south shore of the lake in California, finishing at 8 a.m. on the north shore in Nevada. The swim took her 12 hours and 58 minutes.

“It took longer than I thought it would,” said Aguilar. “We got a lot of wind, we had almost seven hours of wind so it did get heavy and it took a long time. I had to take breaks and hit my face several times. My shoulder hurt a lot around the seventh hour.”

Aguilar’s swim began around 7 p.m. on July 31 and ended at 8 a.m. the next day. Photo courtesy of Fernando Quintana.

Fernando Quintana, the trainer with whom she has been working for more than six years, said that this challenge was not easy.

“We realized that despite being a lake, the conditions are very changeable. There was always the possibility of not making it, but Cynthia is a very disciplined swimmer.”

She mentioned that to stay mentally focused and give herself encouragement, she uses a personal ability.

“I have an ability that when I start swimming, I manage to blank my mind, I don’t do any type of meditation. When I start to feel desperate, Fernando helps me to calm down and continue, because there are moments when you say ‘I can’t do it anymore,’ but there goes the mental strength because if I give up I would have to start from scratch, then I better keep swimming.”

The start and finish point of Aguilar’s swim.

For this challenge, Quintana said they trained hard for 12 weeks but never actually practiced at the lake.

“All the training was done in Mexico City. Once we were asked how it was possible that pool swimmers could do this kind of challenge, and the truth is that we didn’t always have the opportunity to go out to sea but we managed to practice in cold water.”

Aguilar, 39, works in sales and in her spare time devotes herself to her passion. She says that her love for swimming began in childhood, but it was only recently that she started swimming competitively. 

“I learned to swim when I was little, but I never trained for competitions or anything. About 7 years ago I had the desire to start with open water and that’s when I started swimming. First I started with 10 kilometers, then I saw that I could do more. Then I started with 20, and that’s how I started going up in distance,” she said.

In addition to completing the length of Lake Tahoe, Aguilar has participated in several marathons, such as the Acapulco challenge of 22 kilometers, the 20 bridges of Manhattan, and Catalina Island, among others. Now, her next challenge will be to seek the triple crown in the English Channel.

Every year, swimmers from all over the world dare to cross Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe Open Water Swimming Association tracks in real time the attempts and records of the athletes. 

List of swimmers who have successfully swam across Lake Tahoe this summer 2021:

Individuals who’ve swam Lake Tahoe’s Length – 21.3 Miles (34.3 km) to-date in 2021. The most difficult course on Lake Tahoe, the Length typically tracks South to North, beginning in South Lake Tahoe, CA at Camp Richardson and proceeds north to Incline Village, NV. Source: Lake Tahoe Open Water Swimming Association 

For a complete and updated list, visit https://www.tahoeopenwater.org/results/.

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