Sion, Madame Jeanne

Jeanne Sion was born in Dunkirk in 1889. She was the daughter of a sailor Frederic Sion, owner and founder in 1853 of a swimming school in Dunkirk: the “CarrĂ© Sion”. In 1922, at the age of 33, she hoped to become the first female swimmer to cross the strait. Unfortunately, during her attempt on Sunday, September 7, 1922, she returned to the shore aboard the ship “Ravager” after having failed 4 miles from Dover. She had swam 14:30 hours and would have swam, says the captain of the Ravager, 71km in total. Still in great shape, she gave up after a violent sore throat caused by salt water and the poor refueling system.

From 1924 to 1926, three swimmers make numerous attempts at becoming the “first woman” to cross the Channel in an intense, notorious but friendly 3-way rivalry that excites the press. They are the Americans Harrison and Ederle as well as the Dunkirk Sion.

In 1924 Sion started from Cap Gris-Nez on the night of July 22, but there was hardly anyone to report on her attempt, because at the same time the Summer Olympics are held in Paris. For her crossing, Miss Sion is accompanied by a Calaisian tug “The Champion” which had successfully accompanied Enrico Tirabosch in 1923, the 4th swimmer to succeed in swimming the English Channel. This 22nd of July, Miss Sion enjoyed an absolutely calm time and a sea with the appearance of a lake. Driven then by the currents and especially exhausted by the cold, she abandoned at the end of the morning within 7 miles (11km) of the English coast. She was removed from the water and brought back to Calais by the tugboat.

Joined in 1925 by Harrison and Ederle, all 3 women attempt the Channel without success. Miss Sion is again the first to start from Cape Gris-Nez with this time a hundred people gathered on the beach to attend the departure.

With Ederle’s success in 1926, Sion and Harrison fade into obscurity

Swims by Sion, Madame Jeanne

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