2020 WOWSA Awards – World Open Water Swimming Performance Of The Year Nominees
Courtesy of WOWSA Awards, Huntington Beach, California.
The annual WOWSA Awards are sponsored by the World Open Water Swimming Association and serve as an annual public recognition of the best in the world’s open water swimming community. There are four categories:
“The mission of the World Open Water Swimming Association is to educate, enthuse and entertain those who venture beyond the shoreline,” says Steven Munatones. “Today, we are announcing 12 nominees from 9 countries for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year. In a year unexpectedly wracked with government closures, mandates, stay-at-home orders, lockdowns and quarantines, the number of solo crossings, relays and competitive races fell dramatically. The global FINA professional marathon swims – except for the first time – were all cancelled. But the open water swimming community was patient and forged on when pools and shorelines were opened again.
The annual winners of the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year include:
- 2009: Andrew Smilley of the Cayman Islands for his performance at the RCP Tiburon Mile in San Francisco
- 2010: Ventura Deep Six of USA for its 202-miles (325 km) relay in 101 hours 39 minutes along the California coast
- 2011: Nejib Belhedi of Tunisia for his coastal 1400K Swim Across Tunisia
- 2012: by Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil of Spain for organizing the Descenso a Nado de la Ría de Navia for decades
- 2013: by Bering Strait Swim, an international relay with 121 participants (swimmers + officials + crew)
- 2014: Diomede Islands Swim, a 5.6 km tandem swim by Alexandr Brylin and Grigorii Prokopchuk of Russia between the USA and Russia
- 2015: Strait of Messina record-breaking crossing by Andrea Fazio of Italy
- 2016: Sarah Thomas of US.A. for her 80-mile (128.7 km) crossing of Lake Powell in 56 hours 5 minutes 26 seconds
- 2017: Margarita Llorens Bagur (Spain) for her 37-hour 73 km solo attempt between Ibiza and Javea in Islas Baleares
- 2018 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year: by Ross Edgley for his 157-day Great British Swim around Great Britain
- 2019 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year: by Roman Karkachev, Timur Falomkin, Andrey Zamyslov, and Anton Kutuev for their 25 km Gulf Of Finland Relay [shown above].
The 2019 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year Gulf of Finland relay [see above] is an example of the purpose of the WOWSA Awards. The World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year is meant to (1) best embodies the spirit of open water swimming, (2) be representative of the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and (3) have demonstrated the most impressive open water swimming performance of the year.
2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year Nominees:
10. Sea of Galilee Perimeter Swim (Israel)
The 2020 nominees include the following:
1. Century Swim To Malta by Neil Agius (Malta, vote here)
2004 Olympian Neil Agius has increased his distance from 400 meters to 38 km around Gozo to 70 km around Malta and is now at 100 km when he swam from Sicily, Italy to his native country of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. His 28 hour 7 minute not only broke the existing record held by fellow Maltese Olympian Nicky Farrugia who also swam from Sicily to Gozo in 1985 in 30 hours 17 minutes, but it has also immediately inspired him to go further. The 34-year-old departed from Sicily at 5:15 am and arrived at St Julian’s Water Polo & Aquatic Club in Malta the next day at 9:24 am, with the swim becoming a subject of a documentary called The Long Swim Home. For creating and succeeding in a charity swim as part of the Wave of Change movement which raises awareness about marine pollution and threats to marine habitats, for setting a new record from Sicily to Malta, and for dreaming of longer, tougher and more ambitious goals as a result of his Sicily-to-Malta crossing, the Century Swim To Malta by Neil Agius of Malta is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
2. FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series Victory by Leonie Beck (Germany, vote here)
Leonie Beck realized her dream, making it to the Tokyo Olympic Games in the 10 km marathon swim. Her hard work paid off as she finished in the Top 10 at the 2019 FINA World Championships. But punching her ticket to the Olympics would soon turn into an unexpected two-year wait when the COVID-19 pandemic delayed everything a year. But the delay appears to be working in the 23-year-old’s favor. In February, at the only FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series event in Doha, Qatar, Beck upset a whole slew of world champions, Olympic medalists and the crème de la crème at the highest echelon of competitive open water swimming. For winning in 1 hour 56 minutes by 0.2 seconds over Olympic champion Sharon van Rouwendaal and 2019 FINA Best Open Water Swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha, for surprising herself with a victory over 53 competitors including European champion Arianna Bridi, Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson, and 2019 FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series champion Rachele Bruni, and for establishing herself as a dark horse Olympic 10K Marathon Swim medalist for Tokyo Olympic Games, Leonie Beck of Germany is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
3. HK360Xtreme Challenge by Mayank Vaid (India, vote here)
Mayank Vaid works as an intellectual property lawyer in Hong Kong, but the Indian triathlete wanted to do something unique and special in and around Hong Kong. Working with the renowned Shu Pu, he trained for the 45 km HK360Swim, but the circumnavigation swim around Hong Kong was postponed. Nearly a year later due to the COVID-19 pandemic and his newest plans, he started and completed the HK360Swim in 18 hours 8 minutes, that took him longer than expected. But he continued on because his goal was the 360 km HK360Xtreme Challenge that required him to dry off, hop on his bicycle and cycle 215 km around Hong Kong Island and New Territories, and then run 100 km around Hong Kong. 70 hours 19 minutes later after a series of unexpected adventures and physical challenges, Vaid ultimately completed his goal. For his tenacity and patience in training, planning and executing the first massive triathlon literally around Hong Kong Island, for tackling his first major marathon swim and then carrying on for a total of 70 hours 19 minutes, and for working well with Mercedes Benz and a slew of sponsors and support staff, the HK360Xtreme Challenge by Mayank Vaid of India is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
4. Ice Kilometer by Alisa Fatum (Germany, vote here)
At the 6th Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere German Open & IISA® World Cup, Alisa Fatum outdid herself – and faster than the entire rest of the field, including both men and women. In the early-season race, the 25-year-old German ice swimming speedster swam a 12 minute 49 second Ice Kilometer, even beating Olympian Rostislav Vítek (12:53), world champion Christof Wandratsch (13:22), American star Colin Bushweller (13:24), and Dutch icon Fergil Hesterman (13:37). In nearly breaking her own world record, she averaged a 1:16.9 per 100m without the benefit of a dive or flip turns in the 25-meter pool in Veitsbronn, Germany. For swimming only 4 tenths of a second slower than her existing Ice Kilometer World Record of 12:48:60, for swimming the 11th fastest Ice Kilometer in history including all males and females, and for elevating the expectations about the potential speed of elite female ice swimmers in the eyes of the global swimming community, the fast Ice Kilometer by Alisa Fatum of Germany is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
5. Lake Baikal Relay Eco-Crossing (Russia, vote here)
Russian swimmers Oleg Dokuchaev, Maria Chizhova, Pavel Komarov, Eugene Zozulya from Vladivostok and Andrey Bugay from Irkutsk crossed Lake Baikal that holds 20% of all drinking water on Planet Earth. Situated in the southern part of the Eastern Siberia, the quintet of Russian swimmers completed the 50 km course in 16 hours 11 minutes from Vydrino, Buryatia in 30-minute rotations as the water temperature fell from 14°C to 12°C and the air temperature dropped to 5°C and the winds picked up. Conditions continued to get worse until the water sunk to 5°C over the final 2 km, ending in Listvyanka, Irkutsk where the coldest water from the depths flow out to the Angara River. For dealing with increasingly colder and tougher over the entire 15-hour ordeal, for maintaining a high level of mutual support and focus while repeatedly handling the back-to-back immersions in cold water, and for completing an unprecedented relay crossing of the deepest lake in the world, the unprecedented Lake Baikal Relay Eco-Crossing by Oleg Dokuchaev, Maria Chizhova, Pavel Komarov, Eugene Zozulya, and Andrey Bugay of Russia is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
6. Lake George Two-way Crossing by Caroline Block, Ph.D. (USA, vote here)
Lake George has been crossed by marathon swimmers since 1958, but only infrequently to say the least. The 51.8 km Queen of American Lakes is a long, narrow lake in upstate New York. Dr. Caroline Block, the only person to attempt two-way crossings of the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland, took her endurance, willpower and support team to the shores of Lake George to attempt an unprecedented 103.6 km two-way crossing. A tough 52 hour 24 minutes later, Block emerged victorious and smiling. The 36-year-old anthropologist became the first person to attempt and complete a double. For yet another multi-day non-stop marathon swim by a modern-day Renaissance Woman, for pushing herself beyond expectations and setting a world record, and for being so positive, personable and passionate about pioneering new swims, Dr. Caroline Block of the USA is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
7. Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli by Arianna Bridi (Italy, vote here)
Even after a disappointing 2019 when she failed to quality for the Tokyo Olympic Games and an unexpected pandemic this year that put a halt to her training, 25-year-old Arianna Bridi continued to train hard and did the frankly unexpected and totally improbable. Not only did she revive her long ongoing rivalry with Ana Marcela Cunha at the 36 km Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli in Italy, but she also beat all the professional men in a 1-2 all-female finish. But what was most remarkable in that professional marathon race was the world record that resulted. After decades of attracting the world’s best male and female swimmers in history including John Kinsella, Claudio Plit, Petar Stoychev, Veljko Rogošić, Paul Asmuth, Alfredo Camarero, Yuri Kudinov, Nasser Elshazly, and Nabil Elshazly, Bridi set an overall course record of 6 hours 4 minutes. For swimming faster than every other professional marathon swimmer – male or female – since 1954, for touching out Ana Marcela Cunha by a 1 second in a close race to the finish, and for setting the bar almost impossibly high on one of the world’s most famed marathon swimming courses, the Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli victory and overall record by Arianna Bridi of Italy is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
8. Monterey Bay Crossing by Catherine Breed (USA, vote here)
With a team of veteran Monterey Bay channel swimmers on her boat, NCAA pool swimmer-turned-marathon swimmer Catherine Breed dug deep and kept swimming through a cold, dark night across the foggy 40.2 km Monterey Bay in northern California. Without any sense of location due to fog that lay on the water surface, Breed could not distinguish between the water and sky for nearly the entire crossing. Effectively blinded by the conditions and guided solely through the fuzzy outline of her escort boat, she relied on the calm and experienced guidance of Kim Rutherford and Amy Gubser. In addition to the darkness of night and the thick blanket of fog, Breed encountered dozens of jellyfish with their painful venomous touch on her face and all over her body. She started in 14°C water and endured passing over the underwater Monterey Bay canyon with its water temperature drop and turbulent currents before finishing on the northern shore in 12 hours 42 minutes, the fastest time in history. For fighting through the pain of jellyfish stings, for completely trusting in her escort crew despite being disoriented throughout her crossing save for the last 500 meters, and for making a successful transition for warm-water chlorinated pools to the always dynamic marine environment with its unexpected obstacles, the record-setting crossing of the Monterey Bay by Catherine Breed of the USA is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
9. Peace Route Swim (Turkey, vote here)
Nine swimmers, ages 33 to 60, from Turkey took on an ambitious goal: to swim 91.27 km from Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to the Turkish mainland. This was the first time this route had ever been attempted. Along the 37 hour 30 minute relay crossing in the Mediterranean Sea, Erman Akkaya (55), Temel Yakşi (60), Nükhet Atilgan (46), Mehmet Hilmi Soylu (43), Pelin Çelik (48), Zafer Özdem (60), Deniz Kayadelen (33), Burçak Tümay Pekel (33), and Murat Meto (47) encountered much marine life including sharks, while facing warm water and air. They laughed and they worried. They relaxed and they stressed out with the vastly dynamic sea conditions, ranging from a calm sea and tranquil conditions during the daytime hours to challenging turbulent conditions over a long night of uncertainty. For pioneering a new relay swim route from Northern Cyprus to the Turkish mainland, for bringing together young and older swimmers of both genders and various speeds in a successful relay, and for swimming for and celebrating peach through the expression of open water swimming on World Peace Day, the Peace Route Swim by nine swimmers of Turkey is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
10. Sea of Galilee Perimeter Swim (Israel, vote here)
The Sea of Galilee Perimeter Swim in Israel was a breakout celebration stage swim by Udi Erell, Doron Amosi, Ben Enosh, Ori Sela, Oded Rahav, Luc Chetboun, Shani Moskuna, Adina Faur, Amnon Salai, Ami Ginsburg, Dror Belkin, Or Kind, Tal Fridman, Tal Snunit, Avishag Turek, Oded Gross, Erez Tzuk, and Tzvika. Held under strict safety protocols in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 18 Israeli swimmers swam 18.1 km, 15.7 km and 13.4 km respectively during the three-day stage swim. Their tandem swim course was close to the entire shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. The unprecedented 47.2 km cumulative perimeter swim presented logistical difficulties and required a large escort crew, but the tandem swim was successful in completing the three separate courses, swimming 48 km in total. For initiating another environmental awareness and protection program where the theme is to keep the Sea of Galilee clean and safe, for the original vision of Ami Ginsberg to established a new marathon course and offer a celebration of open water swimming in Israel, and for all 18 swimmers who showed selflessness throughout, embodying teamwork and sharing a profound sense of camaraderie throughout their three days at sea, the Sea of Galilee Perimeter Swim by 18 Israeli swimmers is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
11. The Original Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming by Kamil Resa Alsaran (Turkey, vote here)
Kamil Resa Alsaran became the first person in 45 years to complete the Original Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming with a successful 13 hour 9 minute crossing of the 28 km Bristol Channel in England. The Bristol Channel was last crossed in 1982, a difficult body of water to say the least, but Alsaran completed the swim at the age of 59. For becoming the oldest person to complete a crossing of the very tidal Bristol Channel and only the seventh successful swimmer in history, for completing the Original Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming to join International Marathon Swimming Hall of Famer icons Kevin Murphy and Ted Keenan as the only three individuals in history to achieve this feat, and for freely and humbly sharing his advice to properly mentally prepare for all his endeavors that includes many channel swims, the Original Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming by Kamil Resa Alsaran of Turkey is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
12. Travessia do Leme ao Pontal by Mariana Chevalier (Brazil, vote here)
Inspired by a famous Brazilian song Do Leme ao Pontal, the 36 km Travessia do Leme ao Pontal has become the most popular marathon swim in South America. Mariana Chevalier Santos, a 16-year-old competitive swimmer, set off at 2:02 am in March along the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on a starry night illuminated with a full moon, not fully knowing what to expect. As she swam along the edge of the well-lit municipality, Mariana became seasick – and stayed that way. But she forged on for a total of 9 hours 42 minutes, especially a fast last 10 km when she picked up her pace and kick. The beauty of the shoreline scenery helped her focus on her goal to become the youngest person to complete the Travessia. For her precocious sense of adventure, degree of tenacity, and abundance of perseverance on her first major marathon swim, for becoming the youngest successful swimmer of the Travessia do Leme ao Pontal swimming the third fastest time among women in history, and for utilizing this experience for a follow-up success in the English Channel four months later on a 11 hour 55 minute crossing, the record-setting Travessia do Leme ao Pontal by Mariana Chevalier Santos of Brazil is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
To vote for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, visit here.
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Southern California native, born 1962, is the creator of the WOWSA Awards, Oceans Seven, Openwaterpedia, Citrus Corps, World Open Water Swimming Association, Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Global Open Water Swimming Conference. He is Chief Executive Officer of KAATSU Global and KAATSU Research Institute. Inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Honor Swimmer, Class of 2001) and Ice Swimming Hall of Fame (Honor Contributor – Media, Class of 2019), recipient of the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Poseidon Award (2016), International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award (2010), USA Swimming’s Glen S. Hummer Award (2007, 2010) and Harvard University’s John B. Imrie Award (1984). Served on the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and as Technical Delegate with the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, and 9-time USA Swimming coaching staff.