The nominees for the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year are below. Their exploits, histories and lifestyles are incredibly inspirational to read.
These awards are not necessarily for the best athletes, but are meant to honor the man and woman who (1) best embody the spirit of open water swimming, (2) possess the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and (3) have most positively influenced the world of open water swimming in 2008.
The top vote-getters in each region will also be honored as the 2008 Asia/Oceania Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the 2008 European Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year and the 2008 Americas Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
While the nominees have enjoyed long remarkable careers in the sport of open water swimming as athletes, coaches, promoters, writers, directors and/or administrators, please vote your choice based on their achievements during 2008.
Dmitrij Belov (Russia), Russian National Open Water Swimming Team Coach
As Dmitrij has for the past several years, Dmitrij led the powerful Russian open water swimming team at international competitions ranging from the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships and various FINA World Cup races to the European Open Water Swimming Championships and the Beijing Olympic 10K Marathon Swim event. As they have in the past, the Russian swimmers performed very well at all events using the classic Russian come-from-behind race strategy. With a strong cadre of experienced swimmers developed over time, Dmitrij’s swimmers have consistently finished at or near the top of the pack. An unsung hero in his own right, Dmitrij sets the foundation and direction for the unparalleled open water swimming program which the Russian swimmers continue to thrive.
[Photo of the victorious Russian National Open Water Team at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships by Javier Blazquez]
Emilio Casanueva (USA/Chile), Sanctioning Body Founder and President
Emilio is the founder and driving force behind the not-for-profit Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, the governing body of channel swimming between the California coastline and the marine sanctuary islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, ranging from 6-30 miles in distance. He organized major swims in 2008, including the 55-person 26-mile BIG SWIM, the 26-mile professional 6x6 Relay Race, and 3-mile and 10-mile coastal races in Santa Barbara. He was also the observer on 13 different solo crossings and did a 7 hour 45 minute solo swim himself across the 12-mile route from Anacapa Island to Oxnard. When he was not organizing races and crossing, Emilio organized weekly ocean swims and clinics in Santa Barbara and open water swimming trips to Baja Mexico, Chile and Guatemala through his Ocean Ducks Swimming Adventures. A man of boundless energy and selfless devotion to the sport, Emilio is doing a wonderful job helping swimmers in the beautiful Santa Barbara Channel paradise.
Sid Cassidy (USA), FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee Chairman
Sid was everywhere in 2008 as the Chairman of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee. He was the starter at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, he coordinated operational details and overall strategy with the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee and FINA, and he gave numerous talks, presentations and clinics from Minnesota and Las Vegas to Seville and Beijing. He refereed professional FINA races and educated swimmers, coaches and administrators worldwide. He helped adjudicate key issues and helped document the sport for the benefit of future generations as he embodied the spirit of an open water swimming enthusiast and volunteer. A man of dedication, perseverance and vision, Sid has seen the sport from the perspective of a pro swimmer in the 1970’s to his current position as the chairman of the world’s most powerful open water swimming organization. He has selflessly given his talents and energies to the sport and has made it stronger under his leadership throughout 2008.
David Davies (Great Britain), Cross-over Olympic Swimmer
David had two important impacts on the open water swimming world in 2008: as the 2004 1500-meter bronze medalist, he was the highest-profile pool swimmer to cross-over and win a silver medal in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. Secondly, David swam fast – very fast from the start – to elevate the sport in terms of its athleticism and required aerobic conditioning. David, swimming courageously, literally pulled the entire field on an unbelievably fast pace throughout the entire 10K distance at both the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships and the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Beijing. He ended his season with an exciting victory in the Great North Swim. His presence as both a pool and open water swimming Olympic medalist and his boldness in trying to break the field have raised the bar for the current and all future generations of world-class open water swimmers.
Sam Greetham (Great Britain), Director of British Swimming
Soon after the 10K Marathon Swim was added to the Olympic program, Sam helped set in motion the strategy and develop plans at British Swimming that culminated in the most successful open water squad at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Identifying opportunities, events and swimmers, Sam helped lay a foundation that resulted in two silver medals (Keri-Anne Payne and David Davies) and a bronze (Cassandra Patten), as well as motivation for the next generation of British swimmers to take to open water swimming. In addition, Sam worked with his colleagues at LEN to create for the first time innovative individual and team trials at the 2008 European Open Water Swimming Championships.
Chad Ho (South Africa), Tough Teenage Marathon Swimmer
As the youngest male qualifier for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, Chad was in the middle of the lead pack during the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships, well-positioned to qualify for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, but he was kicked hard and his goggles caused a cornea tear, dashing his Olympic dreams in a split second. He faded to 35th place and had to return home to recover from a devastating swim and injury. Like Natalie du Toit though, Chad never gave up on his Olympic dreams. Unlike Natalie, however, Chad did not have the benefit of time; he only had a few weeks to mentally prepare for a last-chance Olympic qualification race. Chad had a miraculously fast last 1K to qualify for the Olympics where he later placed a very respectable 9th place. Chad’s determination and focus on his goals, despite physical obstacles and setbacks, are representative characteristics of courageous open water swimmers worldwide, no matter the age.
Alex Kostich (USA), Masters Swimmer Extraordinaire
Alex traversed the world to swim very competitively against much younger swimmers in many of the world’s fastest short-distance open water swims. Alex, a multi-time winner in nearly all major short-distance races continues to work full-time at Sony Pictures while traveling to the St. Croix Coral Reef Open Water Swim Race, the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Pacific Open Water Challenge, the RCP Tiburon Mile, the La Jolla Rough Water Swim, and the Semana Nautica Ocean Swims, crisscrossing numerous time zones to swim and win in warm water, cold water, rough water and still water against all comers. His respect for the ocean and his love for racing are clear to all when he ends each competition with a large smile on his face, kind good words about his competitors and appreciation for race volunteers, whether he wins or finishes behind kids who were in grade school when he was starring at Stanford. For all those entering mid-life, Alex continues to represent "old-school guys" very well.
Thomas Lurz (Germany), Professional Marathon Swimmer
Thomas traveled the world in search of world-class races, always competitive and always gracious in defeat. Thomas Lurz was the bronze medalist in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, won FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cups in Cancun (Mexico) and Dubai and was runner-up in Setubal (Portugal). He was second in the prestigious RCP Tiburon Mile in San Francisco, third in the rematch of Olympic medalists at the Great North Swim in England and was the 2008 world champion in the 5K and bronze medalist in the 10K in the pressure-packed races in Sevilla. He also had an outstanding meet at the 2008 European Open Water Swimming Championships in Croatia where he won the 10K and got a bronze in both the 5K and the 5K team trial. Traveling the world and representing his country and the sport with his trademark professionalism, composure and versatility are Thomas's characteristics to admire.
Randy Nutt (USA), Coach, Promoter and Race Director
Randy brings passion and excitement to the sport, year in and year out with 2008 being no different. The Bermuda Round the Sound swim and his Bonaire EcoSwim in the Netherlands Antilles attract hundreds of people from around the world to the incredibly scenic waters. The joy experienced by first-time participants at these races results in many newcomers becoming open water swimming aficionados, ranging from young top-notch age-group pool swimmers to adult fitness athletes. Randy provides the widest range of distances in the open water swimming world, from 0.8K to 10K, including relays. He also conducted a National Geographic shark expedition to test out shark pods and shark repellent that attracted interest for obvious reasons. He continues to serve on the US Masters Swimming Open Water & Long Distance Committee and the other races that he organized and built (Swim Around Key West and the St. Croix Coral Reef Open Water Swim) continue to prosper. Randy conducts educational pre-race clinics and provides unsung personal advice constantly handed out throughout the year via email and telephone to people of all ages and abilities, resulting in two of the world’s most scenic and enjoyable open water swimming experiences.
Bob Placak (USA), Generous Visionary and Promoter
Bob Placak has been giving back to the sport of open water swimming for years, and 2008 was another typical year. Year in and year out, Bob continues to make his presence known to newcomers to the sport as well as the world’s elite athletes via the RCP Tiburon Mile. Besides offering the sport’s richest cash prize ($10,000 to the male and female winners), Bob’s post-race spread is, without question, the world’s largest and best gourmet food offering to open water swimmers. His attention to detail and genuine care for all athletes, young and old, elite and inexperienced, are unparalleled. Not only does Bob fly in dozens of world champions and Olympic medalists from around the world to compete in his prestigious race, but he also hosts Special Olympians and has generated over $650,000 in charitable donations. Although the RCP Tiburon Mile is only held on one day in October, the former national butterfly champion and his full-time staff prepare year-round for the magical spectacle in San Francisco Bay. In addition to this non-stop work on the RCP Tiburon Mile, Bob also manages all-star relay teams at the Trans Tahoe Relay and the Maui Channel Swim that have built a solid record of success. It is Bob’s selfless devotion to the sport and to the athletes that makes the sport richer in more ways than one.
Scott Rice (New Zealand), Open Water Branding Expert
Scott is Mr. Open Water in New Zealand with a growing reputation throughout Asia and worldwide. He owns the New Zealand Ocean Swim Series, a fantastically marketed and branded open water swimming tour in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and elsewhere that has rapidly grown and offers more cash prize money than even the FINA World Cup and Grand Prix tour events. He co-brands affiliated projects like Sovereign OceanKids, the blueseventy Golden Goggles Club and the Auckland City Swimming Family Competition. He helped win the bid for a new FINA 10KM Marathon Swimming World Cup that will be televised live in New Zealand. He also manages the Swim Festival in Wellington, the North Shore City Beach Series and a total of 21 ocean-related events per year. His robust business model, including ample television coverage, extensive community outreach and sister swims across the Pacific, is the envy of the industry. Built from the ground up, Scott has his hands in everything from TV commentating on the races to constantly over-delivering value to his race sponsors. The value of his passion and his hands-on work is readily apparent to everyone who participants in, volunteers for, sponsors, cheers at or watches his incredibly orchestrated events.
Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria), Professional Marathon Swimmer
Besides finishing sixth in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim and competing in two Olympic 10K qualification races in Spain and Beijing, Petar won his eighth consecutive FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix, an unprecedented string of dominance. His reign over the longest and toughest marathon swimming circuit over the past 8 years is incredible, especially in a year when he also competed at the Olympics in the 1500-meter freestyle (15:28) and when one considers how close marathon races are nowadays. The English Channel record holder won the 57K Maraton Acuatica Rio Coronda (Argentina) Grand Prix, the 15K Maraton Acuatico International Ciudad Rosario (Argentina) Grand Prix, the 15K Maraton Patagones Viedma (Argentina) FINA Grand Prix, the 30K Ohrid Lake Swim Marathon (Macedonia) FINA Grand Prix, the 32K Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean (Canada) FINA Grand Prix, the 34K Traversée Internationale du Lac Memphrémagog (Canada) FINA Grand Prix, was second in the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup in Lac St-Jean (Canada) and was fifth in the 19K Sabac Swim Marathon (Serbia) FINA Grand Prix. No one has swum further than Petar in tough world-class races this year and his selection as the Bulgarian flag-bearer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was only one of the well-deserved honors he received in 2008.
Douglas Woodring (USA/Hong Kong), Race Innovator and Director
Douglas brought a bit of green to the open water swimming world in 2008 with his very creative 'Carbon-Neutral Option' at the 15K Clean Half, Asia’s only marathon swimming relay event. By enabling the relay swimmers to use outrigger canoes instead of a motorized escort boat in the 5-person ocean relay, Douglas generated great publicity for the sport and environmental awareness. His touch of the dramatic, his advertising prowess and his love of the sport are creating an open water swimming beachhead in Hong Kong. Douglas also organizes the shorter Shek O Challenge and is working on establishing a regional open water swimming circuit in Asia. His marketing flair is especially evident when one sees musicians entertain the swimmers ALONG the course on floating pontoons and DJ’s and dancing in post-race celebrations. A breath of fresh air and passionate enthusiasm, with a deep care for the environment, Douglas continues to develop the sport in the semi-tropical metropolis of Hong Kong.
Maarten van der Weijden (Netherlands), Olympic Champion
The 2008 gold medalist in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim truly performed in storybook fashion in Beijing. His hard-to-believe comeback from leukemia to Olympic stardom is pure Hollywood enhanced a heartwarming splash of reality, but Maarten’s outstanding performances were not limited to Beijing. At the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships, he showed his versatility with a 4th-place finish in the 10K, a bronze in the 5K and an exciting gold-medal performance in the 25K. Maarten applied his high-tech approach to his Olympic preparations, incorporating sleep in a high-altitude tent and adjusting his sleep and training patterns to Beijing time several months before the Olympics. Maarten is the most visible, humble and accessible ambassador of professional marathon swimming, and remains a gregarious symbol of determination and talent.