The Power of Perseverance

The Power of Perseverance

By Sonya Chwyl

GNS Alum Jill Yoneda '92 recently visited GNS to speak about hard work, determination, and pursing your goals in the face of all odds.

Last August, Jill Yoneda fulfilled her childhood dream of swimming across the Juan de Fuca strait. Though there were "a few obstacles," according to Jill, she persevered.

"When someone tells me not to do something, that's all I want to do," said Jill, who considers herself an average athlete at best. To Jill, achieving great things is all about hard work.

"Where people see impossibilities, I always saw possibilities," she said.


Jill started out her swimming career as a freediver, and has dived for Team Canada in 2006, 2008, and 2012. She holds three world records for dynamic apnea, or swimming while holding her breath. Her personal best is 150 metres, and she can hold her breath for five minutes and 35 seconds. After Jill was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, she was forced to stop freediving. Instead, she turned to distance swimming.

In addition to the heart defect, Jill has overcome degenerative disk disease in her neck (for which she had major surgery to replace the disks with titanium) and drop foot syndrome.

Despite having undergone surgery on her left leg only weeks before, Jill successfully swam across the Juan de Fuca Strait in August with her friend and fellow swimmer Susan Simmons. The swim was over 35 km, and by the end of it Jill was hypothermic. Still, she pushed through.


"Perseverance comes from the heart," she said. "It drives me to keep overcoming the physical limitations that I have."

Next, Jill has set her sights on swimming the Georgia strait—twice. She'll start in Vancouver, cross to Vancouver Island, then double back—two times the distance of her Juan de Fuca endeavour.

Thanks so much for visiting, Jill, and for sharing your inspiring story!

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