Anne Marie Ward was selected as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year in a global vote concluded on December 31st, 2010.

There were so many outstanding open water swimmers in 2010 that the nomination committee had an extremely difficult time selecting the final 12 nominees for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

Among the millions of open water swimmers, there were hundreds of swimmers who could have been nominated, but these women certainly stood out. The exploits of the nominees for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year are described below. Their accomplishments, histories and lifestyles are incredibly inspirational to read.

This award is not necessarily for the best athlete, but are meant to honor the woman who (1) best embodies the spirit of open water swimming, (2) possesses the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and (3) has most positively influenced the world of open water swimming in 2010.

1. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil), Professional Marathon Swimmer
Following in the footsteps of her Brazilian rival Poliana Okimoto who won last year, Ana Marcela Cunha won the FINA 10KM Marathon Swimming World Cup circuit.

After a disappointing year in 2009, Ana Marcela is back and swimming extraordinarily well. From January in Brazil to October in the United Arab Emirates and Argentina, Portugal, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Mexico between in addition to races throughout the Americas, Ana Marcela demonstrated a consistently high level of competitiveness in every venue - be it ocean, lake or bay - and in all kinds of water conditions, water temperatures and racing situations.

Ana Marcela, the youngest swimmer at the 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim where she placed fifth, is well on her way represent Brazil once again at the 2012 London Olympics.

For her focus, athletic abilities and low-key, humble nature, Ana Marcela Cunha is well suited to be nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

2. Angela Maurer (Germany), Professional Marathon Swimmer
Year after year, Angela Maurer remains in the lead pack among the world's fastest marathon swimmers in her second decade of the sport.

She quietly balances the maternal demands as a mother of a child with the training and travel demands of the global professional marathon swimming circuit.

She competed in pro races in Brazil, Argentina, China, Hong Kong, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates in addition to competing in the World Championships in Canada where she finished fifth in the 10K race and at the European Championships in Hungary where she finished second in the 25K race by a tenth of a second. She finished second in the FINA 10KM Marathon Swimming World Cup circuit, the most competitive open water series in the world, with most of her competitors 10 - 15 years her junior.

For her continued competitiveness and her lifestyle balance unlike her rivals at the highest levels of the sport, Angela Maurer embodies the success and spirit of those nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Women of the Year.

3. Anne Marie Ward (Ireland), North Channel Swimmer
Anne Marie Ward joined one of the most elite and exclusive marathon swimming clubs in the world - the 11 members of the North (Irish) Channel club. Her 18 hour and 59 minute effort, courageously ended in darkness at 3:35 am.

It was Anne Marie's fourth overall attempt - and second attempt in 2010 - which made her first success all the more sweet.

With both the English Channel and North Channel under her belt, Anne Marie completely turned around her unhealthful lifestyle and is now one of the world's most accomplished cold-water channel swimmers. Starting with a 2-mile charity swim, Anne Marie is now at the pinnacle of her chosen sport.

For her hard work and dedication to charity swims, Anne Marie Ward is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

4. Barbara Held (USA), Pacific Channel Swimmer
Barbara Held 56-year-old Barbara Held set the world record for the oldest woman to cross the Catalina Channel, but she did not stop on the shores of California after her blazing fast 9 hour and 36 minute channel swim.

Not only did she join the Catalina Channel's Half Century Club, Barbara traveled to South Africa and finished 17th among over 128 swimmers in the 7.5K very cold-water Cadiz Freedom Swim and completed the 9.6-mile Maui Channel Swim in extremely tough conditions in 6 hours and 40 minutes.

For her incredible endurance, continued persistence and focus beyond belief in the second half of her life, Barbara Held is worthily nominated as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

5. Diana Nyad (USA), Pioneer
Diana Nyad is 61 years old, but young enough to pursue her lifelong dream of swimming 103 miles from Cuba to Florida. After failing once over 30 years ago after a valiant 42-hour effort, Diana returns to her Dream Swim without a shark cage and the drive of a true adventurer.

Although she was not able to realize her Extreme Dream in 2010 due to unfavorable weather conditions, she trained diligently for the estimated 60-hour non-stop swim including doing a 24-hour non-stop training swim in the Caribbean Sea. With her new sights set on a 2012 swim date, she inspired many around the world and gives new meaning to the age of 61. In her training, she was prepared for battle with Mother Nature every stroke of the way.

Her audacity, her intricate planning with a multi-national team of experts, her charm and eloquence, her ability to bring media attention to the sport, her inordinate amount of patience in waiting for the elements to give her a chance and for visas to be issue, and her 24-hour non-stop training swim are all excellent reasons to nominate Diana Nyad for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

5. Eva Fabian (USA), World Champion
A huge heart and giant dreams in a small body is one way to describe the diminutive Eva Fabian who won the 5K world open water swimming championships in a photo finish. But it was her attitude and demeanor after the 10K world championships that truly embodied the spirit of the champion and the never-give-up character of an open water swimmer.

After leading the entire race, she inexplicably went around the wrong way near the last buoy and was immediately disqualified. She swam shocked to shore.

While her red card would have crushed many, the 16-year-old Eva calmly took everything in stride and was soon smiling in anticipation of her next race.

For her tenacity against all who tower over her, for her sweet nature that rolls with the punches and for her thrilling world championship victory, Eva Fabian is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

7. Freda Streeter (Great Britain), Channel Motivator and Educator
On the shores of Dover Harbour, there is no one with a more authoritative presence and a faster impulse to give a warm hug than International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Freda Streeter, known as the Channel General. Freda, mother of the Queen of the Channel Alison Streeter, is an encyclopedia of knowledge of how to get across the English Channel safely for athletes of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

She is a tough taskmaster, but her encouragement and the heartfelt statements of love and support are freely given in support of seriously minded swimmers who make their way to the world’s most famous marathon swimming beach. Day and night throughout the Channel season, Freda is there doling out advice, inspiring, educating and calming the newcomers, the hopefuls and the experienced who descend upon her turf from all over the world - in a loving manner. People swim for themselves – and for Freda whose compassion, love and passion is boundless.

For her sense of mission, her purposeful instruction and her long days and nights in support of swimmers, Freda Streeter is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

8. Jackie Cobell (Great Britain), Endurer
Jackie Cobell Jackie Cobell joined the exclusive Half Century Club when she completed her one-way crossing of the English Channel in 28 hours and 44 minutes. The 56-year-old British endurance athlete set out on a five-year journey to set out her dream of swimming the Mount Everest of open water swimming.

Injuries, surgeries and the passage of time were the obstacles that Jackie took in stride and kept a positive outlook throughout. Her finishing time was the slowest one-way crossing of all time, a testament to her iron will and deep passion for the sport.

For a smile that never wavered and a never-give-up personality that embodies the spirit of the open water swimming community, Jackie Cobell’s English Channel swim is nominated for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

9. Linsy Heister (Netherlands), World and European Champion
Linsy Heister won her first world championship in the cold lake of lac St-Jean in Quebec, Canada. Her pace for the 25K race got increasingly faster as she pulled away from the international field (36:07, 35:54, 36:06, 34:15, 35:07, 36:06, 35:47, 33:13, 34:05 and 25:31 on the 2.5K splits in the loop course with the last loop slightly shorter).

In the surface chop and wind, Linsy could not see her competition and simply put her head down. As she crossed the finish, she looked in front and behind her and suddenly realized that she had won. Tears of joy flowed as her dream of being a world champion came true. Later in the year, Linsy followed up her 25K world championship, a 10K victory at the European Swimming Championships against a star-studded field and is one of the top FINA 10K Marathon swimming World Cup swimmers this season.

For her commitment to the sport and her winning efforts in lakes in Canada and Hungary, Linsy Heister's gold-medal victories at the 2010 World and European Championships deem worthy of her nomination for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

10. Mighty Mermaids (USA), Masters Team Extraordinaire
The Mighty Mermaids are a group of six American women – all in their 50’s – who are among the most committed and fastest masters marathon swimmers on the planet.

The Mighty Mermaids are extremely serious, fit and focused swimmers with a mission to demonstrate that swimming fast and having fun is easily within the realm of women north of the mid-century mark.

Christie Plank Ciraulo (56), Nancy Steadman-Martin (55), Tracy Grilli (54), Karen Farnsworth Einsidler (54), Lisa Bennett (54) and Jenny Cook (52) continued to swim a number of open water swims as individuals, but also set a Catalina Channel record of 9 hours and 19 minutes. While beating younger teams and male teams is a goal, they are also great ambassadors of health and the sport – inspiring others from shore-to-shore. Individually, they continue to win open water swims while maintaining a healthy lifestyle balancing family, work and training.

Due to their symbolic nature of their mission, their healthful balance between family, work and sport, and their track record of success that the Mighty Mermaids are collectively nominated as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Women of the Year.

11. Penny Palfrey (Australia), Adventure Swimmer
Penny Palfrey Penny Palfrey travels the world, tackling incredibly tough marathon swims. In 2010, she attempted to become the first person to swim the treacherous, shark-infested, Portuguese Man-o-War filled 72-mile Kaieiewaho Channel between the islands of Oahu and Kauai in Hawaii.

The gutsy swim was halted at 58K after 12 hours and 8 minutes when Penny was stung unmercifully by Portuguese Man-o-War. She also set a woman's two-way crossing record of 8 hours and 27 minutes in the Strait of Gibraltar, crossed the Catalina Channel in 10 hours and 36 minutes to join the Triple Crown club, did a Rottnest Channel Swim solo (in 5 hours and 41 minutes) and extended her unparalleled streak at the Magnetic Island to Townsville shark swim.

For her adventurous spirit, her extraordinary athletic abilities, her fearlessness and willingness to traverse the world in search of marathon swimming feats, Penny Palfrey is nominated as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

12. Sue Oldham (Australia), Youthfully-minded Channel Swimmer
Sue Oldham 65-year-old Sue Oldham re-entered the Half Century Club as the oldest woman to ever cross the English Channel - for the second time.

Sue's time of 17 hours and 11 minutes from England to France was a repeat of her first record-breaking swim in 2006 when she initially joined the exclusive club of solo marathon swimmers over the age of 50 who successfully crossed the English Channel.

From her home base of Australia where she continues to swim the Rottnest Channel year after year, she travels the world to share her passion for the sport with others.

As a personable, humble, forthright woman fully enjoying her life and pushing herself to the extremes, Sue Oldham is nominated as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.