While the world watched the opening of the 2012 London Olympics, six metro Detroit women, including a Wyandotte native, were achieving their own feat across the pond – breaking the world record for swimming the English Channel.
Amanda Mercer, Bethany Williston, Jenny Sutton Jalet, Emily Kreger, Susan Butcher and Melissa Karjala swam the English Channel from England to France and back on Friday in 18 hours and 55 minutes, four minutes better than the time previously recorded by a team from Mexico.
Kreger, who's originally from Wyandotte and now lives in Grosse Pointe Park, and her team were inspired to swim the Channel not for athletic glory, but to raise money and awareness of Lou Gehrig's disease, by which all had been touched.
Braving frigid water and often dangerous conditions, the six swam 42 miles in just over 24 hours, wearing nothing but normal swimsuits, caps and goggles, per competition regulations.
After their feat, the swimmers went on to check out some of the Olympic activity in London. Kreger went to the Eton Dorney, the official Olympic rowing venue, to watch her friend, Julie Nichols, row her Olympic heat in the light women's double.
While watching the Olympics, Kreger said, spectators were awestruck with Kreger's accomplishment–something she said she wasn't expecting.
"Julie's mom was introducing me to all the Olympian parents by telling them about our record-breaking swim," she said in an email. They all went bananas about it. I mean here I was at the Olympics–the Olympics!– and these people were so excited about our swim. I guess I need some time and space to gain the perspective to see it that way because right now it's just what I did on my vacation."
Kreger has been swimming since she was a child. She swam while at and continued the sport at Yale University. She's now in her second-year surgery residency at the Detroit Medical Center. She taught for a while after college and rowed for the U.S. National Team before returning home to attend medical school.
She also enjoys running and has ran three marathons: Bayshore, Boston and Philadelphia.
She trained for the swim with a group of Master's swimmers at and under coach Mike O'Connor. Emily also swam many laps at the to prepare for the swim.
With spotty cell service, Kreger was only able to update her friends and family a few times during the actual swim. After the race, she sent a single text message to her sister, Elizabeth.
It said, "Got it."
Jeff Kreger said he knew from the onset that his daughter would be successful.
"I had complete confidence that they would set the record," he said. "They are goal oriented and dedicated people."
Jean Kreger said social media helped her keep abreast of her daughter's journey on the other side of the world.
"It was an emotional experience for the family," she said. "We are so proud of Emily. Her caring for others is beyond amazing. It was a long day on Friday following on Twitter, Facebook and email. I sweated and cried all day."
Now that the world record has been broken, the six swimmers are trying to reach their goal of raising $120,000 for Lou Gehrig's research.
Donations can be made online or through the mail to Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, 2020 Shadford Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.
For more information, check out the team's website.