Solo Swims of Ontario Inc.

Hall of Fame

John Kinsella

Lake Ontario Record Holder

Capitalizing on the great success of the Wrigley-sponsored CNE swims from 1927, Pepsi sponsored the 1978 cross-lake race as a part of the launch of their PEPSI CHALLENGE advertising programme.
As with international, marathon swimming events of that time (presumably to maintain spectator interest), swimmers were required to be finished, or exit the water, 3 hours after the winner had finished.
The weather also turned bad during the 1978 (a feature that John said favoured his abilities) and many swimmers were forced to get out of the water 3 hours after his 13:49 finishing time. This included ALL of the Ladies and (as if to indicate the significance of the weather conditions, this time-constraint, and John's amazing speed), Loreen Passfield successfully crossed the lake on the same course in 15:43 in the following year !

A comprehensive report, entitled (The Machine Cranks Up", appeared in the 28 August 1978 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Nine of the World's greatest men and women marathon swimmers took part in the race.
6 MEN (5 Finished)
1. John Kinsella (25), USA, 13:49. (Other Listings)
2. Claudio Plit (23), Argentina, 15:01. IMSHOF Inductee 1981
3. Raul Villagomez (27), Mexico, 15:09. Openwaterpedia
4. Magdy Mandour (23), Egypt, 15:19. Openwaterpedia
5. Bill Heiss (26), USA, 15:57. Openwaterpedia
Ahmed Youssef Amin, Egypt Openwaterpedia
3 LADIES (0 Finished)
Loreen Passfield - Openwaterpedia
Kim Lumsdon - Openwaterpedia
Angela Kondrak

Over 45 years after his crossing of Lake Ontario in 1978, John's time of 13:49 remains the fastest by far on this couse. . . and it was achieved under quite adverse conditions . . . None of the ladies finished within the race's required 3-hour time limit after the first finisher.
As an indication of the deteriorating/poor conditions, Cindy Nicholas had set the Ladies record of 15:10 four-years earlier but was clearly not within the 16:49 required to finish in the Pepsi Race !
In the following year, another top-class lady competitor, Loreen Passfield, crossed the lake in 15:43.
Both Cindy and Loreen, along with Kim Lumsdon, swam on the Professional circuit in that era.
Cindy went on to set the ladies record the following year.

Lake Ontario, 16 Aug 1978, 2 am Start

The NOTL Start
Bill Heiss (Left) & John Kinsella
Some of The Other Competitors
Ahmed Youssef Amin and Jon Erikson
Front: Kim Lumsdon, Angela Kondrak and Loreen Passfield

The 1978 Finish at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto The Finish John & his Fiancée Christine Kalber

. In his 2023 YouTube interview with IMSHOF chairperson, Ned Denison, John described the Lake Ontario race as his "Longest swim" - a feature which he noted favoured his abilities.

YouTube Link
John's IMSHOF Interview
with Ned Denison in 2023

Magazine Articles, Other Swims & Recognitions

John is an internationally-accomplished swimmer and the are a number of links to articles and listings on his swims:

IMSHOF Inductee, 1978

Sports Illustrated, 28 August 1978 Good write-up with details of the event.

WOWSA Blog "When The Machine Dominated, A Look At The Pro Circuit in 1977"

There are extensive lists of his swims, including:
. Openwaterpedia
. Wikipedia: Coverage of John's time as an Elite Sprinter
. Long Swims Database

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Created: 10th February 2023
Last Updated: 16th February 2023