Google doodle honours Arati Saha – the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel


Google celebrated the 80th birthday of Arati Saha, an Indian long distance swimmer, with a mesmerising doodle on September 24.

On 29 September 1959, Saha became the first Asian woman to cross the English Channel, swimming breathtaking 42 miles from Cape Gris Nez, France to Sandgate, England – a feat considered the swimming equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.

On her 80th birth anniversary, Google dedicated her a doodle illustrated by Kolkata native and guest artist Lavanya Naidu. In the doodle, Naidu showed the route covered by Saha in her swimming stint to become the first Asian woman to swim across the English Channel.

Saha was born in Kolkata on September 24, 1940, in a middle-class Bengali Hindu family. At the age of four years, Arati learned to swim on the banks of the Hooghly River.

Her precocious skill in the water soon attracted the mentorship of one of India’s top competitive swimmers, Sachin Nag. Under Nag’s wing, Saha won her first swimming gold medal when she was only five-year-old.

At the age of 11 years, Saha, a record-setting prodigy, became the youngest member and one of only four women on the first team to represent the newly independent India in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

18-year-old Saha made her first attempt to cross the English Channel. Though it was unsuccessful, she never gave up and keep trying. Just over a month later, she conquered miles of churning waves and currents to complete the journey, a historic victory for women across India.

The government of India honoured Saha for her enduring achievements by presenting her Padma Shri award in 1960. She became the country’s first-ever female recipient of the fourth-highest civilian award in India.

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