2020 WOWSA Awards – World Open Water Swimming Woman 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 11 countries for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year. In a year unexpectedly wracked with government closures, mandates, stay-at-home orders, lockdowns and quarantines, the number of outstanding women in the sport continues to increase. Selecting only 12 women from the innumerable heroines in the sport is a nearly impossible task. Each of these nominees is a very special individual and are representative of the best of the sport.”
World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year Winners:
- 2008: Edith van Dijk of the Netherlands
- 2009: Poliana Okimoto of Brazil
- 2010: Anne Marie Ward of Ireland
- 2011: Pilar Geijo of Argentina
- 2012: Annaleise Carr of Canada
- 2013: Olga Kozydub of Russia
- 2014: Nataliya Fatyanova, M.D. of Russia
- 2015: Bridgette Hobart Janeczko of U.S.A.
- 2016: Jaimie Monahan of U.S.A.
- 2017: Jaimie Monahan of U.S.A.
- 2018: Aleksandra Bednarek of Poland [shown above]
- 2019: Mariel Hawley Dávila of Mexico
The nominees of the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year include:
1. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil)
2. Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden)
3. Bárbara Hernández Huerta (Chile)
4. Cath Pendleton (Wales)
5. Chloë McCardel (Australia)
6. Elena Savinkova (Russia)
7. Jaimie Monahan (USA)
8. Kyra Wijnker (Netherlands)
9. Mariel Hawley Dávila (Mexico)
10. Sarah Thomas (USA)
11. Susan Simmons (Canada)
12. Valérie Grégoire (St. Kitts & Nevis)
Descriptions of the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year nominees include:
1. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil, vote here)
Since first busting out on the international scene in 2006 as a 14-year-old, Ana Marcela Jesus Soares da Cunha has constantly maintained her success and passion for swimming. She has won world titles in 2011 (25 km), 2015 (25 km), 2017 (25 km), and 2019 (5 km and 25 km) while being named FINA’s top open water swimmer 6 times. In 2020, she moved to Portugal as part of Brazil’s Mission Europe program that enabled her to continue training and competing. She competed in the French Open Water Championships (3rd in 10 km, 1st in 5 km), the 36 km Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli (2nd), and the only FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series event (2nd). Upon her return home to Brazil, she won the 10 km Madeira Island Ultra Swim and the 10 km Super Challenge at the Rei e Rainha do Mar. For always competing against and being competitive with the world’s best elite racers, for coming back from having her spleen removed in 2016, and for her constant smile and affable spirit in racing around the world, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
2. Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden, vote here)
Anna-Carin Nordin, the first woman in history to complete the Oceans Seven, has achieved a large number of marathon swims and extreme swims to her credit. The 49-year-old Swedish Honor Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame continues to swim and smile, making friends all over the world. But even with more successful swims and additional exposure, Nordin remains humble, soft-spoken, and quietly ambitious. This year, she set off on another swimming dream with her typically small crew: an unprecedented stage swim in the Baltic Sea around Öland, the second largest island in her native Sweden. 333 km later, after a cumulative 117 hours 5 minutes in the water over 32 separate stages, she finished on Färjestaden right where she started 22 days previously. She swam the last 83 km by herself, without an escort kayaker with her father Karl-Erik Nordin coordinating her ground support. For attempting and completing the record-setting Öland Circumnavigation Stage Swim in her typically understated but triumphant manner, for adding another swim to her prolific open water swimming career with a deep passion and humble appreciation for the sport, and for carrying on with her ambassadorial role as an icon in the sport, Anna-Carin Nordin of Sweden is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Women of the Year.
3. Bárbara Hernández Huerta (Chile, vote here)
Bárbara Hernández Huerta is known as the Sirena de Hielo (Ice Mermaid) in her native Chile where she specializes in glacier swimming, winter swimming and high-altitude swimming. This year, she completed the 45.9 km 20 Bridges Swim around Manhattan Island in 7 hours 59 minutes to achieve the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming as well as completed an unprecedented 7.5 km high-altitude swim across Chungará Lake in the Andes Mountains in 10°C water in 2 hours 11 minutes at 4,517 meters in altitude. The child and adolescent psychologist also pioneered a 9.5 km course across the Beagle Channel in 1 hour 55 minutes in 7.8°C water and won the 30-39 age group in the 2019-2020 International Winter Swimming Association World Cup. For her adventurous spirit and passionate love of extreme swimming in all its various forms, for her sharing of her swims in dramatic venues on social media and on television, and for her inexhaustible joy that is clearly evident before, during and after her swims in cold water, Bárbara Hernández Huerta of Chile is worthy nominees for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
4. Cath Pendleton (Wales, vote here)
In a most unusual year, Catherine Pendleton, known as The Merthyr Mermaid, found an equally unusual path to become famous. Her quiet, matter-of-fact ambitions in cold water swimming, her eloquent, easy-to-grasp descriptions of her adventures in the Southern Ocean of Antarctica and inside the Polar Circle in Russia, her realistic understanding of the difficult challenges that she set for herself, and her passionate dedication to acclimate properly to The Ice was more than sufficient for her to become the protagonist in a BBC One documentary film. In January, the 48-year-old completed her 7th Ice Mile in Morocco and then, in March, became the first person to complete a Zero Ice Mile in 0.03°C water and -3.20°C air in 32 minutes 54 seconds in Antarctica. For representing the ice swimming community so well and so authentically on BBC and in the media, for achieving the first Zero Ice Mile inside the Antarctic Polar Circle in rough water conditions during the Antarctica 2020 International Swim, and for thoroughly and constantly enjoying her journey with a bright smile and a deep sense of gratitude for her supporters, sponsors and seconds, Cath Pendleton of Wales is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
5. Chloë McCardel (Australia, vote here)
43 is one of the most iconic records in the sporting world. 43 or the number of English Channel crossings by Alison Streeter, MBE was once considered an unassailable standard, a far-out world record that would stand the test of time. But Chloë McCardel continued to get closer and closer to reaching the standard set by the Queen of the Channel® with her 37th career English Channel crossing in August. As her channel crossings increase, so does her charity work for a number of causes, including those to fight domestic violence, and her reach to corporations in the financial and information technology industries, conferences, schools and organizations. The personable 35-year-old serves as an inspiration for business and education leaders and a mentor and an escort crew member for swimmers from all walks of life and ages, and the ambassador for a number of charitable causes. For completing 6 English Channel crossings in 3 months including 4 crossings in 16 days in a shortened 2020 season, for promoting marathon swimming and fighting domestic violence through her advocacy to a global audience, offering free online educational seminars to swimmers, for constantly serving as one of the most visible, highly sought-after and public ambassadors in the global open water swimming community, Chloë McCardel of Australia is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
6. Elena Savinkova (Russia, vote here)
Elena Savinkova was the dominant overall and 65-69 age-group winner in the 2020 International Winter Swimming Association Winter Swimming Championships. The Victoria team representative scored a total of 192 points, more than any other individual, male or female, in any age group at the 12th Winter Swimming World Championships in Lake Bled, Slovenia. She won 7 winter swimming titles swimming the 25m butterfly event, the 25m, 50m and 100m breaststroke events, and the 25m, 50m, and 100m freestyle events. For continuing her dominance in the winter swimming competition for the second straight year among women in their 60’s, for enjoying the challenge and ambiance of the International Winter Swimming Association World Cup series, and for being a gracious and passionate ambassador of winter swimming on the global circuit, Elena Savinkova of Russia is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Women of the Year.
7. Jaimie Monahan (USA, vote here)
Jaimie Monahan barrels on swimming longer and colder, all with a wide smile and many words of heartfelt gratitude for her escort team. The 41-year-old from New York continues to be able to push herself further and further into the extreme, while always staying humble and ever adventurous. In a shortened 2020 swim season she modified her usual globetrotting schedule and swam closer to home. She completed an incredible total of 18 circumnavigation swims around Manhattan Island, including history’s first Quadruple Manhattan Swim, a 184 km solo swim in 45 hours 24 minutes. She remains ready to help others, giving practical advice and inspirational messages to others, serving as one of the most accessible icons in the sport of marathon swimming, winter swimming and ice swimming. For completing twenty-nine 45.9 km circumnavigation swims around Manhattan Island over her career that has no sign of slowing, for pushing the limits with her local Mannahatta Project that complements her career of completing the Ice Sevens, 9 Ice Miles and dozens of marathon swims around the world, and for becoming the Queen of Manhattan despite a year of limited opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jaimie Monahan of the USA is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
8. Kyra Wijnker (Netherlands, vote here)
Building on two good years in 2018 and 2019, Kyra Wijnker started out fast – very fast – in the 2020 season. Before the International Ice Swimming Association season was cancelled, the 22-year-old Dutch phenom was able to win the Ice Kilometer at the Amstel IISA Netherlands Championships and at the Cheltenham IISA Great Britain Championships and finish 2nd in the Ice Kilometer in Veitsbronn at the IISA Germany Championships. At the Amstel Ice Swim, she was the second fastest 1000m swimmer overall, only slightly behind Christof Wandratsch. At the Ice Swimming Volendam, she was slightly behind overall winner Fergil Hesterman. At the IISA Great Britain Championships, she was a close third overall behind Wandratsch and James Leitch. At the Open Dutch Championship / Green Heart Ice Swim, she was only 1.5 seconds behind overall winner Fergil Hesterman. For starting out her third International Ice Swimming Association World Cup season so strongly with several victories, for swimming so quickly and pushing the top men on the World Cup circuit, and for maintaining such a positive attitude throughout the shutdown and working towards next season, Kyra Wijnker of the Netherlands is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
9. Mariel Hawley Dávila (Mexico, vote here)
For years through her marathon swims and channel crossings, attorney and author Mariel Hawley Dávila has been raising money for Quiero Sonreír to fund surgeries for Mexican children with cleft lips and palate, paying for oncological treatments for children with cancer, working with women in jail, and promoting health via Mexicanos Activos. Her selflessness and widespread charitable work has touched many people. She swims, she works, she writes, and she is a working mother who had to struggle on after the death of her husband in 2015. But after achieving the Oceans Seven, the 52-year-old continues on. She was one of the first to complete the 32 km Los Cabos Open Water Acuarium Swim in 10 hours 14 minutes. For establishing a new swim called the Cruce de Bahía de Banderas and pioneering a new 34 km course in the Pacific Ocean in 9 hours 14 minutes, for organizing a shorter 10 km Corazón de Mar Bahía de Banderas event to help expand the sport, and for being a strong, resilient, selfless mother in face of adversity, unexpected obstacles and challenges, Mariel Hawley Dávila of Mexico is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
10. Sarah Thomas (USA, vote here)
After her historic 134 km four-way crossing of the English Channel in 54 hours 10 minutes in 2019, Sarah Thomas became globally well-known. Highly respected and admired within the marathon swimming community, she is always poised and introspective in her constant media interviews. The 38-year-old has an inherently calm and humble demeanor that plays extremely well in the public eye. The impressions that she leaves – not only including her channel swim that will be remembered for centuries – are especially inspirational and poignant for people of all ages and from all walks of life. For her record-setting swim across the Anacapa Channel and for swimming the length of Lake Tahoe while sharing her story and her journey on podcasts, television shows, radio programs and media articles with an extraordinary depth of character and gratitude, for her engaging and friendly personality that is characterized with patience and a rare eloquence to explain channel swimming to the general public, and for her impeccable position as an icon of the sport who overcame breast cancer, Sarah Thomas of the USA is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
11. Susan Simmons (Canada, vote here)
In an unprecedented challenging year, Susan Simmons stepped up in a huge way, characteristically with her selfless, humble, compassionate demeanor. The 55-year-old from British Columbia shifted her focus from her own marathon solo swimming career to coaching, mentoring and guiding the Spirit Orcas, a group of Special Olympic swimmers who did an 80 km 8-week stage swim in Canada to raise funds for COVID Relief. Despite living with Multiple Sclerosis, she swam every stroke on the way with the Spirit Orcas in addition to encouraging them and celebrating with them. For safely increasing the distance in her second difficult swim with the Spirit Orcas, for positively dealing with MS while shepherding along her swimmers, for safely achieving her goals with Cheyenne Furlong Goos, Meliah Motchman, Maria Sharock, Aly White, Dixon McGowan, Drew Sabourin, Ben Vanlierop, and Lidia White, Susan Simmons of Canada is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
12. Valérie Grégoire (St Kitts & Nevis, vote here)
Valérie Grégoire is a marine biologist, open water swimmer, coach, triathlete, scuba dive instructor, Reef Check coordinator, and a PADI Instructor. She organized a 8.6 km memorial swim, the inaugural MV Christena Memorial Swim in St Kitts & Nevis in the West Indies. Her swim was established to honor the victims of the worst maritime disaster in the English-speaking Caribbean Sea. When the MV Christena went down off St Kitts, only 91 of the 320 people on board survived in 1971. In addition to her compassion, she also serves as the head swimming coach for the Special Olympics athletes and as coach for the St Kitts & Nevis Swimming Federation. For being multi-talented and tirelessly working to help others including serving as the lead instructor for the Swim to Win program on St Kitts, for volunteering her time with Special Olympics athletes, and for establishing a new memorial swim in the Caribbean Sea, Valérie Grégoire of St Kitts is a worthy nominee for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
To vote for the 2020 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, visit here.
Copyright © 2008 – 2021 by World Open Water Swimming Association
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.