Making history

Olympian Elizabeth Beisel’s 10.4-mile marathon ocean swim to Block Island raises funds for fight against cancer


On Sept. 25, three-time Olympian and 2016 Team USA Captain Elizabeth Beisel overcame two weather-related postponements and fought through a finish-line riptide to make history as the first woman to swim the 10.4 miles from mainland Rhode Island to Block Island.

She undertook this open-water challenge as a fundraiser for the nonprofit Swim Across America (SAA) to benefit cancer research and patient programs in honor of her father, Charles “Ted” Lyons Beisel, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in July. To date this charity swim has raised over $135,000.

“I’m humbled and honored to have completed this Block Cancer swim,” Beisel said. “As a child growing up in Rhode Island and swimming in the ocean along our beautiful coastline, I always dreamed of swimming to Block Island. I envisioned my dad on the island waiting for me to finish with an ear-to-ear grin on his face – how proud he would be that I made it. Sadly, he passed before I could make this swim, but he knew I was going to do it and that helped sustain him during his final months. I’ll never get to hug him again, but his fight wasn’t for nothing. I know that my dad’s battle, along with the money raised by Block Cancer, will save someone’s life one day. He is smiling knowing we helped give someone and their family the most precious gift of all time.”

“Elizabeth has been supporting Swim Across America for many years, even before her father’s diagnosis, so this was our opportunity to support her,” noted Rob Butcher, CEO of Swim Across America. “Our cancer researchers will use the Block Cancer funds for science and patient care that will hopefully save someone’s life in the future.”

Beisel entered the water at Matunuck Beach by Ocean Mist, her father’s favorite restaurant, and swam the 10.4 miles to the northeast tip of Block Island in 5 hours and 19 minutes. Her mom Joannie and brother Danny greeted Elizabeth with a hug when she reached Block Island.

The on-water safety crew for Elizabeth’s swim included two veteran kayakers, two escort boats, Atlantic Shark Institute executive director Jon Dodd, Marathon Swimmers Federation observer and marathon swimmer Elaine Howley, SAA CEO Rob Butcher, Olympian Craig Beardsley and family friend Jack Nichting.

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Swim Across America, Inc. (SAA) is dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events. Founded in 1987, Swim Across America has raised more than $100 million to support cancer research and clinical trials. With the help of hundreds of volunteers nationwide and Olympians, Swim Across America is helping find a cure for cancer through athleticism, community outreach and direct service.

To learn more visit or follow on Facebook @swimacrossamerica and Instagram and Twitter @SAASwim.

 (Images courtesy of Swim Across America / Cate Brown Photos)