People Who Changed The World Of Open Water Swimming

People Who Changed The World Of Open Water Swimming

The sport of open water swimming has a bit of ying and yang. As the sport continues to change and evolve, it remains a sport that has stuck to its roots.

Open water swimming remains a battle between the elements of nature and the efforts of mankind. Swimmers remain armed only with swimsuits, goggles and a swim cap while Mother Nature presents obstacles with marine life, winds, waves and currents.

There are a number of individuals who have forever changed the sport. Through their exploits and efforts, their personality and passion, the mindset and dreams of many in the global open water swimming world have changed for the better and expanded to the unprecedented.

While thousands have enabled the sport to blossom and grow, the following are 10 individuals in particular who have changed the scope, dreams, and community of open water swimmers:

1. Captain Matthew Webb (UK) – the first person to successfully swim across the English Channel in 1875 enabled and empowered people to dream big – bigger than ever before – and imagine swimming in unprecedented and unimaginable ways.

2. Lynne Cox (USA) – the first person to swim unaided and unprotected in Antarctica and above the Arctic Circle envisioned a planet where every body of water was a potential swim.

3. Gertrude Ederle (USA) – the first woman to swim across the English Channel proved that women belonged in the world of open water swimming, but that they could do it faster and better than men.

4. Christopher Guesdon (Australia) – the architect of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, together with Dennis Miller and Sid Cassidy, helped introduce open water swimming to the Olympic family and, therefore, to much of the world’s sporting public.

5. Alison Streeter (UK) – the 43 crossing of the English Channel by the Queen of the Channel reiterated that something worth doing in the open water is worth doing it over and over and over again.

6. Wayne Riddin (South Africa) – the race director of the Midmar Mile proved that entertainment and participation by many can uplift the sport, enabling significant investment in its continued growth to unprecedented levels.

7. Annette Kellerman (Australia) – the early 20th century champion encouraged society to teach swimming to women through her accomplishments, exploits and willingness to go to jail for her beliefs and dreams in the open water.

8. Maarten van der Weijden (Netherlands) – the leukemia survivor was the first cancer patient to win an Olympic gold medal empowering many to believe in themselves and the power of positive thinking despite terrible odds.

9. Natalie du Toit (South Africa) – the first amputee to qualify for an Olympic final against able-bodied athletes inspired many with a clear vision anchored in a humbleness and genuine sweetness that struck the hearts of the world.

10. Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) – the exploits of the first women to consistently beat men led to changes in the professional marathon swimming prize structure, ultimately providing more money to women.

11. Lewis Pugh (South Africa) – the encouragement of a greener planet through visually dynamic pioneering swims has developed interest in tying eco-environmentalism with open water swimming.

12. Sir William ‘Billy’ Edmund Butlin (UK) – the promoter of the English Channel professional swims brought money and media to the sport in the post- World War II era, dramatically setting the bar for future event organizers.

13. Adolph Kiefer (USA) – the creator of the soft-gasket swim goggle that enabled swimmers to train longer with clearer vision and without irritation.

14. Mark Zuckerberg (USA) – the computer programmer popularized social networking with Facebook enabling millions of swimmers and non-swimmers to share information and stay immediately connected online by sharing content, photos and videos of their lives and their swims.

15. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim (USA) – the creators of YouTube enabled millions of swimmers, coaches, event organizers, fans and non-swimmers to share videos of their lives and their swims enabling the sport of open water swimming to enter homes, offices and mobile devices.

16. Ivan Getting (USA) – the creator of the Global Positioning System, along with Roger Easton and Bradford Parkinson, enabled escort pilots, race organizers and swimmers to more accurately plot and swim a course in the open water.

17. Captain Leonard Hutchinson (UK) – one of the best early English Channel pilots set the standard for navigation in the early years and chronicled the crossings in detail as a roadmap for the future.

18. Commander Gerald Forsberg (UK) – the noted marathon swimmer, author and administrator helped bring vision, leadership, structure and organization to the open water swimming world that was influential on a global scale.

19. Fran Crippen – the world-class swimmer’s untimely death in a race in Dubai led to comprehensive changes and improvements in open water swimming safety policies, procedures and protocols throughout 202 member governing bodies in FINA.

These individuals – including many others who have similarly changed the world of open water swimming – have greatly influenced the world of open water swimming.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones