Petar Stoychev, Like No Other In The Open Water

Petar Stoychev, Like No Other In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere World Championships in Burghausen, Germany.

Petar Stoychev has checked off nearly all the possible boxes in the open water swimming world throughout his lengthy career:

* Olympic pool swimmer … three times in 2000, 2004, 2008
* Competed at the FINA World Short Course Championships … 2000
* Olympic 10K Marathon Swim finalist … two times, 6th in 2008 and 9th in 2012
* World Open Water Swimming Championships medalist … 25 km in 2010 and 10 km in 2000
* World Swimming Championship gold medalist … 25 km in 2011
* World Swimming Championships medalist … 25 km in 2005, 10 km in 2005, 25 km in 2003
* Marathon swim victories … in Poland, Italy, Canada, Argentina, China, Macedonia, Serbia
* Won the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix … unprecedented 11 times
* Won the 32 km Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean … unprecedented 11 times
* Won the 34 km Traversée Internationale du lac Memphrémagog … unprecedented 11 times
* Won winter swimming events … 450m at 2016 Pirita Open
* Won the Winter World Swimming Championships … 450m in Tyumen, Russia
* Won ice kilometer at Ice Swimming World Championships … Burghausen, Germany 2017
* Set world record in ice kilometer … in 12:15.87
* Ranked ranked #1 in ice kilometer … at German Open Burghausen 2016
* Served as a member of the FINA Athletes Commission
* Served as a member of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee
* Selected as an Olympic flag bearer … 2008 Beijing Olympics
* Selected as the 2009 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year … 2009
* Set English Channel record … first solo crossing under 7 hours
* Inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame … Honour Swimmer 2009
* Competed at the European Championships … 1995 to 2010
* National Bulgarian champion … 1992-2004
* Namesake for a local beer … La Stoychev (Quebec, Canada)
* Served as the Ministry of Sport … for Bulgaria

Remarkably, he has won international championships that have ranged from 2°C (35.6°F) to 32°C (89.6°F) including the uber-competitive 1 km race at the 2017 Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere World Championships in Burghausen, Germany [shown above].

While Stoychev could handle cool waters (in the English Channel and lac St-Jean), he had never competed in ice swimming until 2016. Within a year, he was the undisputed champion of the ice swimming world. He was a dominant figure in a rapidly emerging sport in races sanctioned by the International Winter Swimming Association and the International Ice Swimming Association.

There has literally been no one like Stoychev.

Earlier this year in January, he entered the ice swimming venue in Burghausen like a rock star. “At 2°C water and -9°C air temperature, this year’s race was much harder than last year. The water was colder and the cold air made the water feel colder,” described Stoychev.

In the first 200m, Stoychev fell behind Conor Turner of Ireland and Rostislav Vitek of Czech Republic. Vitek sprinted out to the lead with Turner and Fergil Hesterman both right off his hip. Defending champion Christof Wandratsch and Stoychev were a body behind. It is a flat-out race and each of the top men were aiming to medal.

That initial pace was my limit. I could not continue at that pace. But by the time I reached the 500-meter mark, it was so difficult to continue. Last year, I felt this same feeling later in the race at 800 meters. But this year, my limit was reached in 500 meters. My hands were very cold throughout the race. I also could not see the wall at the end of the race. I felt my triceps tighten up and I could not push at the end of my stroke.”

But Stoychev shifted his gears and started to gain on Vitek and Conor as the others slightly faded. Out in 6 minute flat, Stoychev had pulled into the lead by the 500 meter turn – and was not slowing down. 500 meters and 6 minutes 15 seconds later, Stoychev cruised to the finish to win a world open water championship in both 2°C water in Burghausen and in 32°C water in Shanghai in 2011.

The Bulgarian beat the defending champion and local hero Wandratsch. Wandratsch had been busy all week, from helping the organizing committee to coordinating the baking of cakes by his students to raise funds. The pressure and demands on the defending champion were too much to handle against his much more focused competition.

His versatility is unprecedented and I think he has yet to touch his potential in these kinds of conditions,” said Steven Munatones. “Petar and the young guns like Conor Turner, Fergil Hesterman of the Netherlands, and Petr Slajs of the Czech Republic are really going to push the envelope as to what is possible in near-frozen conditions. It is exciting times in this emerging niche.”

Just as he did in the Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean, Traversée Internationale du lac Memphrémagog, BCT Gdynia Marathon, and Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli, Stoychev set a new standard. He established an ice kilometer world record of 12:15.87, breaking his old world record of 12:28 that he set in the same venue in 2016.

As Stoychev and his fellow competitors were busy rewarming in the dry and wet saunas near poolside and the crowds were filing out of the venue, the venue was literally starting to freeze over.

2017 Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere World Championships Men’s Results:
1. Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria) 12:15.87 [world record and world championship record]
2. Conor Turner (Ireland) 12:42.98
3. Rostislav Vitek (Czech Republic) 12:45.54
4. Fergil Hesterman (Netherlands) 13:08.10
5. Christof Wandratsch (Germany) 13:16.08
6. Petr Šlajs (Czech Republic) 13:23.87
7. Marcus Reineke (Germany) 13:38.11
8. Tobias Wybierek (Germany) 13:48.30
9. Henri Kaarma (Estonia) 14:02.26
10. Stefan Runge (Germany) 14:18
11. Ryan Stramrood (South Africa) 14:24.92
12. Rory Fitzgerald (Great Britain) 14:28.31
13. Macin Trudnowski (Poland) 14:42.27
14. Jochen Aumuller (Germany) 14:53.79
15. Herman van der Westhuizen (South Africa) 14:59.97
16. Denis Colombe (France) 15:07.13
17. Simon Franke (Germany) 15:24.06
18. Piotr Biankowski (Poland) 15:25.30
19. Tobias Hirst (Great Britain) 15:36.21
20. Jacques Tuset (France) 15:50.02
21. John Ryan (Ireland) 15:51.53
22. Jack Boyle (Ireland) 15:58.88
23. Richard Nyargy (Slovakia) 16:11.67
24. Hamza Bakircioglu (Turkey) 16:16.29
25. Clinto le Sueur (South Africa) 16:20.98
26. Jakub Valnicek (Czech Republic) 16:29.61
27. Ivan Lewis (Great Britain) 16:31.40
28. Dezider Pek (Slovakia) 16:41.35
29. Florian Battermann (Germany) 16:48.45
30. Ram Barkai (South Africa) 16:58.85
31. Patrick Corcoran (Ireland) 17:06.22
32. Jacobus Guijt (Netherlands) 17:09.70
33. Martin Kuchenmeister (Germany) 17:31.74
34. Thomas O’Hagan (Ireland) 17:33.01
35. Stefan Jung (Germany) 17:37.90
36. Paddy Bond (Ireland) 17:49.51
37. Philippe Fort (France) 17:52.74
38. Werner Whelpton (South Africa) 18:06.98
39. Shaun Hales (Great Britain) 18:07.18
40. Pádraig Mallon (Ireland) 18:18.33
41. Leszek Naziemiec (Poland) 18:20.66
42. Andrey Zamyslov (Russia) 18:22.77
43. Josef Koberl (Austria) 18:58.32
44. Uli Munz (Germany) 18:59.40
45. Jonathan Coe (Great Britain) 19:08.91
46. Franz Herbst (Germany) 19:20.67
47. Radomir Suchopa (Czech Republic) 19:42.06
48. Petr Mihola (Czech Republic) 19:44.09
49. Ger Kennedy (Ireland) 19:44.87
50. Pearse Ryan (Ireland) 20:06.52
51. Lukasz Tkacs (Poland) 20:08.45
52. Marek Grzywa (Poland) 20:46.75
53. Nikolay Petshak (Russia) 21:03.34
54. Alexandre Fuzeau (France) 21:18.11
55. Noel Grimes (Ireland) 22:25.91
56. Mervyn Bremner (South Africa) 22:37.17
57. Enzo Favoino (Italy) 23:14.35
58. Robert Lenzbauer (Austria) 23:46.11
59. Myles McCourt (Ireland) 24:43.96
60. Andreas Bergler (Germany) 26:32.04

For his track record of success in ice swimming [men’s 1 km final at the 2017 Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere World Championships], Stoychev was nominated for the 2017 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year among the following individuals:

1. Evgenij Pop Acev (Macedonia)
2. Antonio Argüelles (Mexico)
3. John Batchelder (USA)
4. Guillermo Bértola (Argentina)
5. Avram Iancu (Romania)
6. Stéphane Lecat (France)
7. Dr. Lucky Meisenheimer (USA)
8. Lynton Mortensen (Australia)
9. Simone Ruffini (Italy)
10. Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria)
11. Sayed Ihsan Taheri (Afghanistan)
12. Ferry Weertman (Netherlands)
13. Philip Yorke (Great Britain)

His nomination reads, “Petar Stoychev is unique among all the world’s open water swimmers. He has been a 4-time Olympian in the pool and open water, a national administrator in his native Bulgaria, an influential FINA Committee representative, and an English Channel record holder who has won an unprecedented number of FINA professional marathon races. But this year, he dramatically added ice swimming to his record of success. He completely dominated the 2017 World Ice Swimming Championships, setting the bar at the 1 km level. Just like in the English Channel and venues like lac St-Jean, the 41-year-old studied the requirements and rules of ice swimming and quickly – but not unexpectedly – became a world champion.

For his willingness to attempt a new aquatic discipline, for adding another world championship to his unprecedented record of success, for helping to elevate the speed, global awareness and expectations of the ice swimming world, Petar Stoychev is a worthy nominee for the 2017 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

To register and vote on the WOWSA Awards and the 2017 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, visit here.

Video of the men’s 1000m ice kilometer race by is shown here.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones