One Of The All-Time Greats Writes His Memoirs

One Of The All-Time Greats Writes His Memoirs

One Of The All-Time Greats Writes His Memoirs

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Herman Willemse wrote his memoirs about his open water swimming career – one of the most prolific and successful careers of the 20th century.

In Vrije slag (Freestyle), Willemse tells of his swims around the world and his post-retirement adventures in a sailboat with his wife Nel.

He started his career at the age of 24 at the 1959 Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swim when he finished second in the English Channel race and finished in 12 hours 49 minutes [photo on left]. He retired at the age of 33 after traveling to races around the world and was later inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1963.

Willemse was known by his nickname the Flying Dutchman and dominated the professional marathon swimming circuit between 1960 and 1964, winning the 30 km (19-mile) Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean in Canada in 10 hours 7 minutes in 1961, in 9 hours 3 minutes in 1962, and in 8 hours 32 minutes in 1963, the 36 km (22.5-mile) Around-the-Island Marathon Swim in Atlantic City, USA five times from 1960 to 1964, the 24 km (15-mile) Canadian National Exhibition race in 1961 and 1962, the 12.5 km (8-mile) Northumberland Strait race in 1964, the 37 km (23-mile) la Descente ou remontée du Saguenay in 6 hours 15 minutes in 1966, four 16 km (10-mile) Tois Riviere Swims in 1961 to 1963 in Canada, the 58 km (36-mile) Maratón Acuática Internacional Santa Fe – Coronda in Argentina in 1963 with two third-place finishes in 1964 and 1966, the 45 km (28-mile) Mar del Plato race in Argentina, the 42 km (26-mile) race in the Suez Canal in Egypt, the 88 km (54.6-mile) Maratón Internacional Hernandarias – Parana in Argentina, the 32 km (20-mile) Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli in Italy, and 13 Dutch national championships.

Willemse is a dual inductee when he was inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2008 as an Honor Open Water Swimmer. He also served his fellow competitors when he helped found in 1961 and was the first president of the World Professional Marathon Swimmers Federation.

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