The tiny teen triumphed.
Battling high overnight waves and exhaustion, 14-year-old Annaleise Carr on Sunday evening became the youngest person ever to swim across Lake Ontario.
After the sun sank behind banks of grey clouds, following a light rain, the 4-foot-10 Simcoe, Ont., schoolgirl climbed onto a Toronto waterfront wall near Marilyn Bell Park at 8:57 p.m., as a crowd of about 300 cheered and whistled.
"Let’s go, Annaleise, let’s go," people of all ages clapped and shouted as she approached them on a boardwalk, after volunteers urged "let her hear your encouragement."
Annaleise dove into the lake around 6:15 p.m. Saturday at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., hoping to finish between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. the following day. Instead, her gruelling 51.5-km adventure took 27 hours — at least five more than expected.
"There was a time when we didn’t think she’d make it," proud dad Jeff Carr told QMI Agency.
Forecasters had predicted easy night breezes from the south, but Annaleise was blown off course by "a 10-to-15 knot wind out of the west," Carr said.
"Then five-foot waves were battering her," he said. "In the morning, she was in pretty rough shape … but she perked up."
Dr. Mark Ghesquiere, a Simcoe physician who accompanied her with other volunteers, pressed a warming to her head as she hugged him, shivering after stepping out of the 56C water.
She was then whisked away by ambulance, accompanied by her parents, for a routine checkup at a local hospital, after bravely smiling and telling reporters, "I’m cold and tired."
An organizer thanked supporters and said more would be said Monday at a press conference in Port Dover, Ont.
"She had a strong spirit and a strong team behind her," Ghesquiere said earlier.
Despite winds and waves that sometimes made steering their boats difficult at 1.5 knots, "I don’t think giving up was an option" the plucky youngster considered, he said.
One of the biggest breaks came from Mother Nature, "who gave us a warm lake," Ghesquiere told reporters.
He said lake-swim rules would have allowed her team to pass Annaleise warming fluids, but a radio-signal core temperature pill she swallowed kept assuring the medical team there was no debilitating hypothermia.
Volunteers were allowed to swim near her for encouragement, Ghesquiere said.
"Just to see her with the sunrise as a backdrop was exciting," he said.
One of the most-welcomed support messages they received came from Bell — the first person to conquer the lake, Ghesquiere told QMI Agency. "She e-mailed us."
Almost 17 when she stepped out of the lake after swimming in 1954 from Niagara to the park west of Exhibition Place on Lakeshore Blvd. W. that was named after her, Marilyn Bell "and her daughter have been monitoring Annaleise all day," her dad Jeff Carr said earlier.
His daughter was contacted earlier in the week by Bell’s daughter, who became a teacher in New Jersey, "and has been Twittering her all week.
"Annaleise is a big fan of Marilyn Bell," her dad said.
Debbie and Jeff Carr had an anxious six hours Sunday morning when they lost contact with their daughter.
"She was in a dead zone and we had no contact," her mom, Debbie Carr, said. "I am so proud when I think of the amount of work she has done — all the training and fundraising."
About 40 people lined the waterfront in the afternoon, their ranks swelling with regular media updates of the swim continuing.
"There are a lot of people here from Norfolk County," said Simcoe firefighter Jim Atkinson, one of several in uniform who drove to Toronto before midday.
"Annaleise is amazing," Atkinson said.
After Annaleise spoke to Norfolk firefighters last year about her goal to swim the lake and raise funds for Camp Trillium, a retreat for children with cancer and their families, “we sponsored her,” he said.
Her original $30,000 goal in February was exceeded by $50,000 by mid- evening, her dad Jeff Carr said.
Calling his daughter "just a mite of a thing," Carr said he and his wife at first "strongly" dismissed their daughter’s plan.
"She’s amazing," he said. "When she came up with $30,000 in February, we said how did you arrive at that … a group only raised $15,000 last year."
— With files from Kevin Connor