WEST BERLIN — Lynne Cox of Los Alamitos swam from East to West Berlin across the River Spree Sunday, past white crosses marking the watery resting places of others who were shot dead trying to reach freedom across the once-forbidden waterway.
East German border soldiers were seen applauding Cox at one point during her less-than-three-hour crossing of the river, which no one has freely entered for 45 years. Otherwise only a few dozen Berliners were out to watch Cox in the pouring rain.
"It was my way of expressing support for all that has happened here in recent months," Cox said afterward.
East Berlin Mayor Tino Schierzina wished Cox luck when she entered the water at the city's Muehlendamm lock early Sunday morning wearing a bathing costume, goggles and cap.
East German river patrol boats escorted the 33-year-old swimmer as she surged through the water to the West Berlin section of the river.
The route of the swim took Cox within sight of the Reichstag, Berlin's pre-war seat of Parliament and past the oyster-shaped Congress Hall, built with U.S. funds in the Tiergarten.
She completed her swim within three hours, climbing out of the water near a point in the river by West Berlin's Charlottenburg Palace.
Asked what she had done to prepare for her feat, Cox said, "Every day I train for two hours, jogging and doing weight lifting."
But Sunday's swim also represented months of effort by Cox to contact hundreds of people to get permission for the swim. She obtained a final go-ahead three weeks ago.
Cox, who first made headlines when she swam across the Bering Strait between Alaska and the Soviet Union, said she planned to remain in Berlin a few days longer.