Heroes And Heroines Of The Open Water

Heroes And Heroines Of The Open Water

Over 35,000 individuals from 158 countries voted online in a poll sponsored by blueseventy in 2009.

Blueseventy’s annual award and acknowledgement of the heroes and heroines of the global open water community is meant to honor individuals from three perspectives.

The annual award to those individuals who best embody the spirit of open water swimming, who possess the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and who have most positively influenced the world of open water swimming.

These winners include Poliana Okimoto of Brazil (shown above), Petar Stoychev of Bulgaria and Andrew Smilley of Cayman Islands.

The 2009 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year award goes to Petar. A 3-time Olympian in both the pool and open water, Petar set a world record in the English Channel when he became the first person to break the magic 7-hour mark from England to France. Petar has also won the world professional marathon swimming title an unparalleled nine years in a row and is currently leading in the ranking for 2010. Petar has swum in dozens of countries on five continents in all types of conditions who admittedly never dreamed of being able to travel outside of his native Bulgaria.

But open water swimming has enabled him to travel the world and become the 2009 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

The 2009 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year award goes to Poliana Okimoto. An Olympian, Poliana went on a tear in 2009 by dominating the FINA Marathon Swimming World Cup series. A slender and impossibly polite and incredibly humble Poliana, won pro races in England, New York City, Copenhagen, France, Portugal and China. She also placed in the top 3 in professional marathon swims in Bulgaria and Brazil as she travels the world to take on any challenge and any competitors. For her sense of adventure, intensity and perseverance, the global open water swimming community awarded her the 2009 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

The 2009 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year award goes to Andrew Smilley. Andrew, a mild-mannered Special Olympics athlete, trains year-round in the beautifully gorgeous and tropical warm waters of the Cayman Islands. As part of the growing movement of open water in the Special Olympics, Andrew was invited to the RCP Tiburon Mile in the always cold San Francisco Bay. Andrew finished 3rd in the competitive 19–29 year age group in the non-wetsuit division among 800 swimmers. For his first-ever cold-water experience against a top-notch field, Andrew was awarded the 2009 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year award.

The World Open Water Swimming Association would also like to acknowledge three special people for their lifetime of outstanding work in the open water. No words can adequately describe the work, effort, vision and passion that these individuals have brought to the open water swimming world.

The first winner is a two-time Olympic medalist who continues to work nearly 10 hours a day sharing her love for the water. Greta Andersen went from being a sprinter in the pool, winning the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and silver medal in the 400-meter relay, to swimming marathon swims in Hawaii, Lake Michigan, Mexico and the English Channel. She set records in oceans from the Pacific to the Atlantic and took on the best men in the world during her era. She trained 10 miles a day, swimming without goggles, off Long Beach, and swam through sharks, jellyfish, the cold and waves.

Despite coming up on her ninth decade on earth, Greta continues to teach young children how to swim and her bubbling, forceful personality has lit up pool decks for several decades. A truly great person and incredible athlete, we salute Greta Andersen for her lifetime of work, passion and accomplishment.

The second winner is Siga Rose, one of the most passionate, kind and motivating coaches in America. Siga has coached great athletes including Lynne Cox and Penny Dean as well as thousands of age-group swimmers from Manhattan Beach to Mission Viejo. Siga enables children to understand – and achieve – their potential as athletes. Day in and day out since the 1970s, Siga has blazed a trail of success. Her kindness, her intensity and her professionalism is unparalleled, especially when it comes to teaching our next generation of our love and challenge of the open water. Another truly great individual who draws out the best in others, we salute Siga Rose for her lifetime of work, passion and accomplishment.

The third winner is Dan Empfield, one of the most innovative visionaries of endurance sports. While the traditional open water swimming community may not recognize his name, Dan’s name is gold in the multi-sport and triathlon world. His immense talents and far forward-thinking vision has led him to create not only the first triathlon wetsuit, but also one of the healthiest and most useful online communities for multi-sport athletes. Dan has enabled millions of athletes to take to the open water by covering them up in neoprene, making them feel comfortable in cold water.

His invention and foresight has literally helped bring millions of new fans and supporters to the sport of open water swimming. After he introduced them to the open water, Dan has now enabled them to share stories, meet friends and learn new information on his fantastic website, SlowTwitch. For his vision and enabling of millions to enjoy the joy and challenge of open water, we salute Dan Empfield for his lifetime of work, passion and vision.

True heroes and heroines of the open water world.

Copyright © 2010 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones