Around lunchtime Tuesday, Paula Yankauskas went for a swim off the coast of Dover, in southeast England. Sometime in the wee morning hours of Wednesday, she emerged near the coast of Calais, France.

In between was the English Channel, a 21-mile stretch of open water that beckons swimmers every year to cross. In between were 16 hours and 4 minutes of steady strokes. In between, a woman who’d been training for two years made the crossing on her first try.

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