Celebrating Excellence: A Recap of the 2023 IMSHOF Induction & Awards Ceremony in New York City

Celebrating Excellence: A Recap of the 2023 IMSHOF Induction & Awards Ceremony in New York City

The IMSHOF 2023 Induction & Awards Ceremony held in New York City was a resounding success, with a remarkable turnout of 125 attendees. The event saw the presence of 20 Individual Honorees, representatives from 5 Honor Organizations, and 4 out of 5 Executive Committee members. Notably, it was the first time the ceremony featured an ASL interpreter to accommodate individuals with hearing difficulties.

The IMSHOF website has been updated with a comprehensive booklet, video highlights, and captivating photos from the weekend.

The ceremony in New York City featured an esteemed lineup of individuals including David Barra, Colleen Blair, MBE, Dr. Caroline Block, Sandra Bucha, Marcia Cleveland, Ned Denison, Elizabeth Fry, Dr. Tim Johnson, DPS, PE, Dr. Jane Katz, Jaime Lomelín Gavaldón, Dr. Marcy MacDonald, PDM, Sally Anne Minty-Gravett, MBE, Kevin Murphy, Forrest Nelson, Julie Ridge, Carol Sing, Sarah Thomas, Nora Toledano Cadena, Jacques Tuset, and Beth Yudovin.

Additionally, various Honor Organizations were represented, including the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation (represented by Forrest), Channel Swimming Association (represented by Julie), Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation (represented by Kevin), Irish Long Distance Swimming Association, and Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club (represented by Sally). Executive Committee Member Madhu Nagaraja was also in attendance.

The event took place at Fordham University’s Manhattan Campus, creating an inspiring and memorable atmosphere for all participants.

IMSHOF Inductees Class of 2023

Australian Long Distance Swimming Federation

The Australian Long-Distance Swimming Federation (ALDSF) was established in 1973 in Hobart, Tasmania, with the aim of promoting and recognizing the emerging sport of open water swimming. As the national body for open water swimming in Australia, the ALDSF played a crucial role in gaining recognition for the sport, especially when support from the pool-focused national swimming organization was lacking. Through their association with the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation and the International Long Distance Swimming Federation, the ALDSF helped Australia gain international recognition.

With a history spanning 50 years, the ALDSF is the longest-serving national open water swimming body in Oceania. In 2020, the organization was inducted into the Australian Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. Since its inception, the ALDSF has sanctioned races and authenticated solo unassisted swims at marathon distances across Australia.

The ALDSF introduced the first-ever Australian national championship marathon races and organized full international events. The iconic 34km Derwent River Big Swim, which started in 1972, remains the premier solo unassisted swim in Australia. It stretches from the New Norfolk Bridge to Tasman Bridge in Hobart and has become a significant training event for swimmers preparing for major swims worldwide. In 2020, the ALDSF also established the prestigious Australian Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming.

Notable swimmers such as Des Renford, Dick Campion, John Koorey, Jenny Anderson, Philip Rush, John Van Wisse, and Lynton Mortensen have participated in ALDSF events. The organization’s first Australian national team competed on the professional marathon swimming circuit in 1975 and 1976, taking part in international events such as the Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean, ILDSF World Championships, Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli, 24 Heures La Tuque, and lac Chibougamau Marathon.

The ALDSF is currently led by President Doug Hughson, Founder/Patron Christopher Guesdon, and Vice President Val Kalmikovs. The founding members and office bearers included President Christopher Guesdon (IMSHOF), Deputy President Dick Campion (IMSHOF), Secretary Sue Guesdon (IMSHOF), and Executive Member John Koorey (AMSHOF).

Since its establishment, the ALDSF has been instrumental in ratifying solo unassisted marathon swims, setting general rules, and establishing water safety protocols.

Colleen Blair, MBE – Honor Swimmer

Colleen, a seasoned marathon swimmer, has amassed an impressive 25-year career filled with noteworthy achievements. Notably, she conquered unprecedented challenges, including a remarkable 44km swim in temperatures ranging from 9-13°C. Her aquatic endeavors span both fresh and saltwater environments, exposing her to diverse temperature conditions. A trailblazer, Colleen holds the esteemed distinction of becoming the first Scottish swimmer to achieve the coveted triple crown in marathon swimming.

Colleen’s marathon swims have taken her across the globe, navigating the waters of Belgium, England, France, Ireland, Jersey, Scotland, and the USA. Beyond personal triumphs, she actively contributes to the swimming community. Organizing three Loch Lomond championships and serving on the Scottish Swimming Open Water Swimming Committee, she showcases her unwavering dedication. Sharing her expertise as a coach and participating as a swim observer, Colleen invests in the growth of open water swimming. Additionally, her philanthropic efforts have raised approximately $20,000 for local charities.

In 2021, Colleen’s exceptional contributions were recognized with the prestigious MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for her remarkable services to swimming. Her vast experience, unwavering commitment, and selfless philanthropy have garnered well-deserved acclaim in the realm of marathon swimming.

Brenda Fisher, BEM – Honor Swimmer

Brenda Fisher, BEM, was an exceptional swimmer who achieved significant milestones in her career. She won two prestigious majors, the Daily Mail (1951) and Butlins (1954) English Channel Races. In 1951, she set a speed record for the France to England route, joining the ranks of the 51 record holders who are now IMSHOF Honorees.

Brenda Fisher’s accomplishments extended beyond the English Channel. She became the third person to successfully cross Lake Ontario and consistently ranked among the top female competitors in marathon swimming during a 12-year period from 1948 to 1959.

Her swimming resume includes participating in various countries, including Canada, Egypt, England, France, and Italy. In addition to her major wins, Brenda competed in three other notable races.

Furthermore, Brenda Fisher received recognition for her contributions to swimming. In 2018, she was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM). Following her retirement from competitive swimming, Brenda became a swimming teacher and coach in her hometown of Grimsby. Her achievements even led her to appear on the renowned US television show, the Ed Sullivan Show.

Brenda Fisher’s outstanding performance and dedication to the sport earned her the title of Britain’s leading sportswoman of 1952. Her legacy remains a testament to her remarkable swimming career.

Rita Kovács – Honor Swimmer

Rita Kovács, a distinguished marathon swimmer, competed on the IMSA and FINA circuits for 11 years, spanning an impressive 18-year period. Throughout her career, she achieved remarkable success, with 23 podium finishes out of 36 races (64%) in 15 different countries. Rita surpassed over 15 IMSHOF Honorees and earned a silver medal at the 1994 World Championships in Italy, competing in the 25 km event.

She excelled in the LEN (European) Championships, securing three marathon medals: gold in the 25 km event in 1997 (Spain), silver in the 10 km event in 2006 (Hungary), and bronze in the 25 km event in 1991 (Italy). Rita’s marathon swimming journey began with a victory in the 25 km race at Lake Balaton, Hungary, in 1991. This success earned her a spot in the FINA World Championships in Perth, where she finished in an impressive fourth place.

Among her notable victories, Rita emerged triumphant in the Fürth Marathon (30 km, Germany) and Ohrid Marathon (26 km, Macedonia) in 1993, Santa Fe-Coronda (63 km, Argentina), Rosario Maraton (60 km, Argentina), and Tapes Marathon (26 km, Brazil) in 1996, and Santa Fe-Coronda (63 km) and Rosario Maraton (60 km) in 1997. She also secured second place in the Capri-Naples race (Italy) in 1991 and 1993, as well as the Maraton Hernandarias-Parana (88 km, Argentina).

After retiring from elite FINA racing in 1997, Rita made an impressive comeback eight years later, returning to the FINA World Cup series and winning the 10 km race in Ein El Sokhna, Egypt, in her first competition back.

In addition to her achievements in marathon swimming, Rita represented Hungary in the 800 meters freestyle event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Notably, she was among the few swimmers from 1960 to 2020 to compete simultaneously in both pool and open water events at the Olympics. Furthermore, Rita coached IMSHOF Honoree Eva Risztov, who also competed in both pool and open water events, leading her to gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

Jaime Lomelín Gavaldón – Honor Swimmer

Jaime Lomelín Gavaldón is a highly successful marathon swimmer with an impressive career spanning 35 years. He achieved notable victories, including winning the 1988 World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation championship. Throughout his career, Jaime showcased his exceptional speed, earning him the title of Mexico’s fastest international marathon swimmer.

From 1987 to 1992, Jaime participated in top international events such as the FINA World Championship, Capri to Naples, Atlantic City, Santa Fe Coronda River (Argentina), Bahia Bacolli (Italy), and Salvador Bahia All Saints Bay (Brazil). He surpassed 15 IMSHOF Honorees, 10 of whom were winners of major competitions. Jaime’s remarkable accomplishments established him as a prominent figure in the world of marathon swimming.

After a 19-year hiatus, Jaime made a remarkable comeback to the sport. He completed the Triple Crown, conquering challenging swims in under 10 hours each. Additionally, he set and broke overall, age group, and yearly speed records in various amateur events across the United States and Mexico, including the Molokai to Oahu (2022), Los Cabos Acuarium (2021), Swim Across the Sound (2018), Gibraltar Strait (2019), and Reto Acapulco (2021). Jaime has completed marathon swims in 11 countries across four continents.

Jaime’s contributions extend beyond his achievements in the water. In 2022, he was appointed as an Ambassador for the “Aquí nadie se rinde” foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the treatment of children and adolescents with cancer.

Diane Struble – Honor Swimmer

Diane Struble was a pioneering swimmer in the late 1950s, known for her remarkable achievements. She completed two groundbreaking swims, covering a distance of 32.7 km across Lake Champlain and a remarkable 51.8 km along the length of Lake George. Diane became the eighth person to circle Manhattan Island, accomplishing this feat 30 years after the seventh swimmer. Additionally, she completed a 20-mile swim in Boston Harbor, gaining significant media attention.

Diane’s swim across Lake George was a sensational event, witnessed by approximately 10,000 people, including spectators on 200 boats. As a result of her accomplishment, she received $25,000 (in 2022 value). Her achievements and charismatic presence led to appearances on popular US television shows such as “The Today Show,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “To Tell the Truth,” and “What’s My Line.” Diane’s inspiring story resonated with women, particularly single mothers, and aspiring athletes of her time.

In her open water swimming career, Diane achieved notable milestones. She became a member of the 24-hour Club by swimming 32 miles (51.5 km) across Lake George in New York in 1958, completing the challenging feat in 35 hours. At the age of 26, with three children, she swam 45.9 km around Manhattan Island in 11 hours and 59 minutes on August 16, 1959. Furthermore, she accomplished a 20-mile swim from Nantasket Beach to Revere Beach in Boston Harbor in 1959, completing it in 13 hours and 24 minutes.

Although information is not available regarding her planned swim from a submarine off the Connecticut coast to shore, Diane’s legacy as a trailblazer in the swimming world remains remarkable.

Sally Anne Minty-Gravett, MBE – The Irving Davids/Captain Roger W. Wheeler Memorial Award 2023

Sally Anne Minty-Gravett, MBE, is a revered figure in open water swimming and an IMSHOF Honor Swimmer (2005). She played a pivotal role as a founding member and President of the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club for an impressive 28 years.

Sally’s swimming achievements are equally remarkable. She has conquered the two-way English Channel, completing a solo swim in each of the last six decades. She is also a Triple Crown swimmer, among other notable accomplishments. Sally’s dedication extends beyond her personal endeavors; she has been actively involved in promoting the sport, coaching, and mentoring for decades.

During her tenure as President, Sally witnessed tremendous success within the Jersey swimming community. Out of a total population of 105,000 residents, 25 local swimmers completed solo English Channel swims, representing an exceptionally high percentage. Under Sally’s guidance, numerous swimmers received coaching and instruction, and many continue to contribute as observers and committee members.

Sally’s influence extends beyond Jersey. She is a founder member and honorary life member of the IMSHOF Honor Organizations: Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation and British Long Distance Swimming Association. Together with her husband, IMSHOF Honor Pilot Charlie Gravett, she tirelessly supported the local team of volunteers, ensuring that Jersey swims remained affordable and accessible. Proceeds from these swims primarily funded swimming events for children, ensuring a bright future for sea swimming in Jersey.

Sally’s dedication to coaching and mentoring extends to overseas swimmers, further solidifying her impact on the sport. Her remarkable journey, accompanied by her unwavering commitment, has left an indelible mark on the world of open water swimming.

Kevin Murphy – The Poseidon Award 2023

Kevin Murphy, an iconic figure in the world of marathon swimming, holds an esteemed place in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, recognized as an Honor Swimmer in 1971, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame, honored as an Honor Open Water Swimmer in 2009.

His achievements in the English Channel alone are awe-inspiring: a record-breaking 34 crossings, including three remarkable two-way crossings. He also holds the title of former Channel Swimming Association King of the Channel. Kevin’s determination led him to complete the Original Triple Crown, conquering the English, North, and Bristol Channels. He further accomplished the Triple Crown by swimming the English and Catalina Channels, as well as Around Manhattan. Notably, he braved the challenging North Channel three times.

Beyond the British waters, Kevin has left his mark on marathon swimming globally. From Lake Balaton’s grueling 75.5km journey completed in 43 hours and 15 minutes to the legendary Loch Ness swim, he has embraced challenges in Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Gibraltar, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Wales, and the USA.

Kevin’s dedication to the sport extends beyond his own achievements. For over 30 years, he has served as an administrator for English Channel organizations, giving back to the community that shaped him. As a gifted presenter, leveraging his background in radio journalism, Kevin has represented the sport in various media outlets, including print, radio, television, and documentary films. Notably, he co-starred in the documentary film “Movie Nothing Great is Easy,” which showcased his intense battle with IMSHOF Honoree Des Renford, MBE.

Since 2015, Kevin has co-founded and directed The Kings Swimmers. During this period, he has provided training, coaching, and advice to approximately 25 swimmers who successfully conquered the English Channel, mentored four North Channel swimmers, guided six English Channel relay teams, and piloted numerous solo swimmers across the vast length of Loch Ness, in addition to three relay teams.

Kevin Murphy’s enduring legacy as a solo marathon swimmer, mentor, administrator, and captivating storyteller continues to inspire and shape the world of open water swimming.

David Yudovin – Dale Petranech Award

David Yudovin, a posthumous honoree from the United States, has been selected as the recipient of the prestigious Dale Petranech Award for Services to the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF). The award will be presented to his family at the IMSHOF Induction Award Ceremony in New York City on May 6, 2023.

In 2014, David played a pivotal role in revitalizing IMSHOF. When the organization faced financial challenges and lacked direction after a lackluster ceremony in Scotland, David stepped up as a leader. He successfully convinced the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) to reintegrate IMSHOF, formed a new management team, implemented structural changes, and generously stabilized the organization’s finances. David’s global swimming endeavors showcased his diplomatic spirit, completing marathon swims in 13 countries across 5 continents and accomplishing first-ever swims in 7 of those countries. He fostered a sense of unity and pride among people from diverse backgrounds, making them integral parts of his “swim team” where everyone was a winner.

David’s enthusiasm and professionalism extended to his involvement with IMSHOF, leaving a lasting impact on its management team and financial stability. His contributions cemented his position as one of the key historical leaders in IMSHOF’s 50+ year history.

The Dale Petranech Award, established in 2016, pays tribute to Dale Petranech for his remarkable service to IMSHOF. Dale, an Honor Contributor in both IMSHOF and the International Swimming Hall of Fame, made significant contributions to the sport throughout his career, including holding the record as the oldest solo swimmer to cross the Catalina Channel in California. With nearly 50 years of involvement at all levels of the sport, Dale exemplifies a lifelong commitment to marathon swimming.

Photo credits: Margaret Hetherman International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame