Elizabeth Beisel

Olympian Makes Historic Swim to Block Island Raising Funds for Cancer Research

Rhode Island native Elizabeth Beisel raised more than $130,000 for Swim Across America, an organization raising funds for cancer awareness and research.

WJAR

Three-time Olympian and Rhode Island native Elizabeth Beisel completed a historic swim in her home state on Saturday, becoming the first woman to swim from Matunuck Beach to Block Island -- a nearly 13-mile open ocean journey.

Beisel completed the feat in memory of her dad, Ted, who died in July after a battle with stage four pancreatic cancer.

With her "Block Cancer" charity swim, Beisel raised more than $130,000 for Swim Across America, an organization raising funds for cancer awareness and research.

Beisel's goal was to complete the lengthy ocean trek in six hours, but she swam faster than that, taking off around 8:15 a.m. and making it to Block Island around 1:30 p.m., according to NBC10 Boston affiliate WJAR.

Two kayakers followed along to flank the 29-year-old during her unassisted swim, and her family was on shore to greet her when she arrived -- with the first hug going to her mom.

Beisel -- who hoped to raise $150,000 for local Rhode Island hospitals, including the hospital where her dad received treatment -- said her swimming career and accomplishments pale in comparison as to why she swam on Saturday.

"After witnessing the pain and suffering my dad was enduring and how quickly his quality of life deteriorated, I felt the overwhelming need to help not just my dad, but anyone and everyone battling this dreadful disease," she said in a statement on the Swim Across America website. "I figured with my swimming platform, the most impactful way I could help would be through a charity swim with Swim Across America."

The Olympic medalist said she had wanted to make the swim from Point Judith to Block Island since she was a little girl, and it was something "exciting" and "impactful" for her dad to look forward to. Although he died over the summer, Beisel said she knows he's smiling and that his fight against cancer was not for nothing.

"I envisioned him being in Block Island waiting for me to finish with an ear to ear grin on his face. I replayed the scene over and over of how as soon as I reached land I would run into his arms and give him a hug and he would whisper proudly 'You did it, Elizabeth,'" Beisel continued on the Swim Across America website. "While he’ll never get to see me swim to Block Island and I’ll never get to hug him again, 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, and he’s smiling knowing he gifted someone and their family the most precious gift of all time."

This weekend we're keeping our eye on something really special. Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Beisel is setting out to make history as the first woman to swim from Rhode Island's mainland to Block Island. She tells Hannah Donnelly that even after three Olympics this will be her most meaningful swim yet.
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