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Alone on the water

Greater Sudbury sports writer and swimmer Laura Young has seen what swimmers go through to complete crossing of the Great Lakes.
Greater Sudbury sports writer and swimmer Laura Young has published “Solo, Yet Never Alone: Swimming the Great Lakes,” about what swimmers go through to complete crossing of the Great Lakes. Supplied photo.
Greater Sudbury sports writer and swimmer Laura Young has seen what swimmers go through to complete crossing of the Great Lakes.

The sheer force of will it takes to swim the challenge compelled Young to write a book — her first published book — about the experiences entitled, “Solo, Yet Never Alone: Swimming the Great Lakes” ($22.95, Scrivener Press 2014).

Readers get to dive into the world of these inspiring athletes and what they went through to reach their goals — the hardship, broken dreams, ultimate glory and an up-close-and-personal look at what swimmers have to endure every moment they are in the water.

“The swimmers are driven, determined and positive people,” Young said. “I wanted to tell their stories. It is nice to make a contribution to the sport I love in this way.”

Young’s focus is on the swimmers themselves and their sense of adventure. These are people with intense desires.

“All the swims are unique,” Young said. “The fact they swim at night to accomplish the goal is impressive. Being in all that water in the dark is something else.

“They make these swims straight without assistance. They can’t touch the crew boat or the swim is cancelled. They eat and drink while treading water or floating. There are no time outs. They just go and don’t stop until it is done.”

The official book launch is set for May 22 at the Bahnuk Lounge in the Ben F. Avery Building at Laurentian University from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free. Young will be reading from the book, and there will be books sales and signings as well.

Young has a swimmer her whole life. She is a swimming instructor, lifeguard and canoeist. She helped form the Laurentian Masters Swim Club 24 years ago. She has also been writing about sports, in general, for more than 25 years. Swimming is and will always be Young’s passion.

“It has been a constant in my life and swimming has been good to me,” she said.

She got the idea for the book about five years ago when she couldn't find something she'd been looking for — a book about Canadian open water Great Lakes swimmers. Young immediately started tracking down swimmers and interviewing them.

“I couldn’t stop,” Young said. “I had to write a book to fill a niche. Open-water swimming has become more popular and is in the Olympics now. I love open water swimming. I wanted to write something about it.”

Young spent three years doing interviews and research and gathering photographs. She talked to more than 40 people and travelled around Ontario to complete the work. This the first book in nearly 60 years to tackle open-water Great Lakes swimming from a Canadian perspective.

It’s also the first to use extensive interviews to journey into the minds of amateur swimmers of the Great Lakes. The book covers all aspects of Great Lakes swimming from 1954 to 2012.

Icons such as Marilyn Bell and Vicki Keith are in there, as are lesser known swimmers; nine maps show readers the crossing routes; 27 black-and-white photographs and a centre section of 14 full-colour photos detail the adventurous swimmers.

Young even stepped up to get a first-hand experience for the book. In 2010, she was invited to be a member of a crossing crew for one swimmer’s attempt across Lake Ontario. It was an experience that will stay with her.

“I know what it is like to be on Lake Ontario at night in a little rubber dingy,” Young said. “You realize just how big the lake is and how much water is out there. I can’t describe how big the water felt … it was scary. It showed me how vulnerable you can be in the Great lakes.”

On top of the official book launch Thursday, Young hosts a book signing at Chapters Sudbury on May 31 from 2 to 5 p.m.