55 years and counting.

Year in and year out, the passion, work and leadership of Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil has had a tremendous impact and influence on the sport of open water swimming in Navia, Spain and its showcase event, the Descenso a Nado Ría de Navia.

The year-round effort of the man known as Moreno was selected as the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

The World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year award is meant to honor efforts that (1) best embody the spirit of open water swimming, (2) are representative of the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and (3) have most positively influenced the world of open water swimming.

Moreno’s performance enables others to enjoy swimming, volunteering and sharing in the magic of the Descenso a Nado Ría de Navia that has captured the hearts and minds of the small town of Navia in northern Spain. For 55 of the 55 years, Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil has been the heart and soul of the Descenso. The dances and the drama, the pageantry and the parades, the races and the revelry of the event are intimately ingrained in a magical week of non-stop activities. This priority on the athletes, the melding of culture and competition is due to the efforts of a larger-than-life personality who places open water swimming at the center of his being. It is his life’s work day in and day out, year in and year out. Moreno inspires the community and sponsors as he weave the traditions of northern Spain to a river swim. Ultimately, his efforts lead to a picturesque event where swimmers are placed on the top podium of priority.

Moreno joins the previous World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year recipients: Andrew Smiley (Cayman Islands) in the RCP Tiburon Mile in 2009; Ventura Deep Six (USA) in a 202-mile relay down the coast of California in 2010; and Nejib Belhedi (Tunisia) who swam the 1400K Swim Across Tunisia.

It was an incredible year of firsts, mosts, bests, fastests and courage by thousands of individuals in the open water swimming world. While Moreno’s efforts were voted as Performance of the Year, the other 2012 nominees were also outstanding representatives and ambassadors of the sport:

1. Alina Warren (Scotland), Swimming Great Glen Way
2. Brenton Williams (South Africa), Deep Blue Flying
3. Dan Projansky (USA), Flying Down The Red River
4. Dutch Ladies First (Netherlands), English Channel Relay Record
5. Frank Flowers (Cayman Islands), Blossoming In The Cayman Islands
6. Haley Anderson (USA), Silver Lining At the Olympics
7. James Pittar (Australia), Shelley Beach Swim
8. Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil (Spain), The Heart of Navia
9. Lexie Kelly (USA), Open Water Swimming Archivist
10. Night Train Swimmers (USA/New Zealand), SF to SB Relay
11. Penny Palfrey (Australia), Marathon Adventurer
12. Philippe Coizon (France), Bering Strait Crossing
13. Saint Martin Island Long Distance Channel Swimming in Bangladesh
14. Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Tsugaru Channel Crossing
15. Trent Grimsey (Australia), English Channel Record

In the online public vote conducted by the World Open Water Swimming Association, another long-time doyen of the open water swimming world Frank Flowers received the second greatest number of votes. Similar to Moreno’s impact and influence over the Descenso a Nado de la Ría de Navia, the personality of the Flowers Sea Swim takes on the characteristics of its namesake.

The Flowers Sea Swim, the richest open water swimming event in the world, happens because of one man’s year-round drive and vision. Frank Flowers lassos his vast network of business associates, government officials, tourism industry, and volunteers of all ages and walks of life to make the Cayman Islands the hot spot in the open water swimming world every June. A pioneer in open water swimming in the Cayman Islands, Flowers learned to swim at the age of 39 when running took its toll on his knees. 21 years ago, the Flowers Sea Swim was the result of this conversion from runner to swimmer. With his vision and relentless drive, swimmers from the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Asia and North America annually gather along the course of the stunningly gorgeous Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman to compete in a race that offers over $100,000 in prizes. Forever generous, Flowers focuses his efforts on the needs and desires of the participants and the charities that he raises bucket loads of money for. The Flowers Family over-delivers on its promise for a memorable extravaganza with overwhelming hospitality for Olympians and over 800 swimmers.

In one of the most awe-inspiring years of open water swimming on record, the community salutes all the WOWSA nominees and Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil in particular for his 5 decades of devotion and his selection as the recipient of the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source