Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Back in the day, Russian open water swimmer/coach Aleksey Akatyev (also spelled as Alexei Akatiev in English) literally did it all.

A member of the Class of 2010 of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, Akatyev was not only the first Russian to make the transition from a world-class pool swimmer to an elite open water swimmer, but he also served as a athlete-coach at two FINA World Championships.

After competing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the 400m and 1500m freestyle (14th and 8th respectively), he ventured outdoors and established his own lifelong niche in the open water. Within two years of his shift, Akatyev won the 5 km and 25 km races at the 1998 FINA World Swimming Championships (note: the 10 km marathon swim had not yet been added to the FINA schedule).

Akatyev won the 5 km race over a stellar field that included Ky Hurst of Australia, Luca Baldini of Italy, David Meca of Spain, Stéphane Lecat of France and Christof Wandratsch of Germany. After winning the sprint race in the open water, Akatyev then won the 25 km race over another accomplished field that included David Meca and teammate Yuri Kudinov.

Akatyev later established an open water school in Russia with his coach Sergey Kustov and supports the sport by serving in various roles including as a referee.

The crossover athlete always fulfilled a role. After the sudden death of Kustov, his coach of 15 years, Akatyev stepped into the role of coach and led the Russian team at 2000 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships in Honolulu, Hawaii and the 2001 FINA World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. In Honolulu, he not only coached the team (including 5 km gold medalist Yevgeny Bezruchenko and 25 km gold medalist Yuri Kudinov, but he also swam to a bronze medal in the 25 km in just over a minute slower than the swimmer he was coaching.

His overall open water swimming record stands as follows:

FINA World Championships:
1994 25 km bronze
1998 5 km gold
1998 25 km gold
1998 5 km team silver
2000 25 km bronze

LEN European Championships:
1995 5 km gold
1995 25 km gold
1996 5 km gold
1996 25 km gold
1999 5 km silver
1999 25 km gold

FINA World Cup Series:
1999 30 km gold in Lake Ohrid (Macedonia)
2000 25 km gold in Bled (Slovenia)
2000 30 km bronze in Lake Ohrid (Macedonia)

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