The nominees for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year are an impressive and courageous group of individuals with exceptional exploits, histories and lifestyles.
The nominees come from all over the world, although there are undoubtedly many more deserving nominees in addition to these individuals. There are always swimmers who accomplish remarkable feats and achieve mind-boggling goals that go under the radar internationally.
The WOWSA Awards are not necessarily for the best athletes, but are meant to honor the men and women who:
* best embody the spirit of open water swimming,
* possess the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and
* have most positively influenced the world of open water swimming in calendar year 2016.
The nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year are as follows:
1. Toshio Tominaga (Japan) Tsugaru Channel Crossing
Toshio Tominaga is a patient man. Quiet and unassuming, the Japanese swimmer and former water polo player from Hiroshima worked for decades as he put this aquatic career on hold. At the age of 62 upon his retirement, he started to make up for lost time. He never lost his feel for the water and started to do channel swims and oceans swim both in Japan and around the world from Turkey to England. But his dream swim was to cross the Tsugaru Channel in Japan. At the age of 73, he finally got himself physically and mentally prepared. On a nearly perfect day, everything came together as he crossed the channel in 9 hours 58 minutes from Honshu to Hokkaido. For his flawless strategy in crossing a technically difficult channel, for realizing his dream to become one of history’s oldest successful channel swimmers as a septuagenarian, for serving as a role model and maintaining his health, strength and dreams throughout his long life, Toshio Tominaga’s Tsugaru Channel Crossing is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
2. Craig Dietz (USA), 10 km Kingdom Swim
Craig Dietz has changed mindsets and expectations with his love of the open water. His ambitions are so inspirational; his message is so powerful; his courage is so compelling. The Limbless Waterman, born without arms or legs, has stepped up his swimming achievements to now include a 10 km marathon swim. With his 4 hour 12 minute completion of the Kingdom Swim in Lake Memphremagog, Dietz is the embodiment of the oft-spoken marathon swimming adage: Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. He is clearly defined not by the physical challenges he faces, but how he has faced the challenges he meets. A man with a sense of mission, humility, humor, and a hunger to succeed, Dietz is an athletic, undulating relentlessly to achieve his aquatic – and dryland – goals. For his degree of courage and breath of boldness ingrained in his DNA, for his depth of character and willingness to try to extend himself in the open water, for his charismatic personality that immediately creates fans and inspires wonder, Craig Dietz’s marathon swim in Lake Memphremagog is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
3. Sarah Thomas (USA) Lake Powell Crossing
Sarah Thomas of the USA stretched her imagination and that of the entire global open water swimming community when the über swimmer from Colorado created a unique 81.8-mile (131.6 km) point-to-point ultra marathon swim. 56 hours 5 minutes after starting and zigzagging between the picturesque canyon walls of Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border in the western United States, Thomas walked up the boat ramp at Wahweap Marina at the finish like she just finished a one-mile warm-up. Smiling broadly and chatting easily with a caked mixture of Desitin and lanolin, the 34-year-old’s massively long solo swim was punctuated by stiff 20 mph winds (32 kph) and miserable conditions. But she powered through the miserable conditions and two nights to set a standard that energized the global marathon swimming community. For her awe-inspiring effort, for her genuinely joyful swim of over 56 straight hours, for keeping the global open water swimming community riveted to her steady pace over two consecutive days and nights, Sarah Thomas’ Lake Powell Swim is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
4. Jennifer Figge (USA) Bermuda Triangle Swim
Jennifer Figge has been traversing the Atlantic Ocean since 2008 on a number of successful solo stage swims. She has faced shipwrecks, marine life of all sorts and sizes, monstrous-sized ocean swells, logistical nightmares, and many months out in the open ocean swimming solo. But nothing keeps Figge so alive and so energized as the freedom she feels while swimming across the Atlantic Ocean. The 64-year-old gregarious adventurer set off on an unprecedented solo stage swim in one of the most storied locations on the world’s ocean: the Bermuda Triangle where she is swimming 1,000 nautical miles from Grand Bahama Island to Bermuda across a turbulent, mysterious part of the globe. For attempting to swim across the Gulf Stream and against oncoming winds heading into the North Atlantic and into the winter, for continuing to have the mindset, audacity, stamina and skill sets to spend weeks out at sea swimming up to 8 hours per day, for recruiting a hardy team of navigators and support crew to keep her safe against all odds, Jennifer Figge’s Bermuda Triangle Swim is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
5. Pieter Christian Jongeneel Anderica (Spain) Double Manhattan Circumnavigation
Pieter Christian Jongeneel Anderica of Spain created a non-profit organization to help others, NGO Brazadas Solidarias. His chosen charity swim of 2016 was a record-setting Double Circumnavigation Swim around Manhattan Island in New York City. His long, lean frame and streamlined stroke enabled him to break the long-standing record of Skip Storch, but his effort was not immune to the winds and tidal interference that Manhattan Island presents to all its multi-circumnavigationists. After 20 hours 15 minutes, the 42-year-old finished at South Cove where he and his crew had experienced everything imaginable including illness and oncoming tides. For his grit and courage throughout, for his passion for helping others before and after, for his record-breaking swim of nearly a day, Pieter Christian Jongeneel Anderica’s Double Circumnavigation Swim is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
6. Dan Canta (Romania) Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming
Dan Canta has taken an unusual road to become the youngest male to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. A 17-year-old Romanian who lives in Melbourne, Australia, the teenager is the protagonist of The Swim Kid, a film documentary of his life and path to the Triple Crown. After starting his Triple Crown journey at the age of 16, he completed the circumnavigation around Manhattan Island with the 20 Bridges Swim and an 11 hour 13 minute crossing of the Catalina Channel. Along the way, he also completed an English Channel relay with his mother and 12-year-old brother. For organizing a charity effort for the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation as part of his Triple Crown journey, for completing the Triple Crown at the young age of 17 as the first Romanian in history, for representing well the Brighton Icebergers as a mature ambassador around the world, Dan Canta’s Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
7. Sean Conway (Great Britain) Swim Leg of the World’s Longest Triathlon
Sean Conway tackled the 4,100-mile, 85-day, self-sustained British Ultra Triathlon with a sense of adventure and a twinkle in his eye. But his last 17-day 161 km leg of sea swimming from Day 69 to Day 85 was nothing short of brutal and primitive. After his 5230 km cycle and 1287 km run, Conway swam by pulling a self-supported raft carrying all his supplies. In a wetsuit, but cold, he fixed leaks on his raft, fished for food, slept on rocky beaches, sought cover in public restrooms, ate raw fish and seaweed stew, swam in pitch darkness at midnight, warmed himself with campfires to arrive knackered at his starting point after nearly 3 months on the road or in the sea. For challenging himself for 85 days with the most primitive of means, for self-navigating and pulling along self-contained raft in a Discovery Channel television program called On The Edge, for keeping his wits and humor about him in the most merciless conditions possible, Sean Conway’s swim leg on the World’s Longest Triathlon is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
8. Hudson Brothers (Great Britain) Into the Maelstrom
Calum, Jack, and Robbie Hudson are adventure-seeking, adrenaline junkies who pursue aquatic challenges in risk-taking locations. The three brothers tackled their most jaw-dropping traverses to date – crossing the largest whirlpools on Planet Earth. After crossing the Corryvreckan near the Scottish Island of Jura, they headed off to Norway’s Arctic Circle for a swim in partnership with World Wildlife Fund – Norge. They chose to swim across two very powerful whirlpools: Saltstraumen and Moskstraumen. They swam across these violently swirling vortexes off the Norwegian coast above the Arctic Circle, risking their lives while crossing strong tides amid killer whales and Lion’s Mane jellyfish. Saltstraumen was a 10-minute focused sprint of 250 meters with less than 60 seconds to spare for death-threatening failure. Mosktraumen was a 8 km 2 hour 31 minute crossing between the islands of Vaeroy and Mosken in 9°C water, Norwegian sea currents and storm flow, the furthest distance swum within the Arctic Circle. For facing their deepest fears in terrifically perilous conditions, for raising awareness about the Norwegian government’s plans to drill for oil in a wildlife haven in a brotherly tandem swim, for inspiring others to embark on their own challenges, the Hudson Brothers’ Into the Maelstrom is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
9. Cristian Vergara (Chile) Easter Island Circumnavigation
Cristian Vergara will attempt one of the most remote marathon swims in human history. Far, far from the shoreline of Chile sits Easter Island, a World Heritage Site 3,512 km away. Vergara, a renowned ice swimmer and veteran channel swimmer, has scouted a 38-mile (61 km) circumnavigation around Easter Island and worked with the local community and the Chilean Armada to pull off this unprecedented attempt. In such tropical conditions where winds blow literally thousands of kilometers uninhibited across the Pacific Ocean, Vergara is planning for a 24-hour swim that may be tremendously turbulent in these unchartered waters. For his creativity and imagination in identifying Easter Island as a marathon swim site, for his years of scouting, planning and preparing for this attempt, and for working with the local people and Chilean government to promote the Island to the rest of the world, Cristian Vergara’s Easter Island Circumnavigation is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
10. Jarrod Poort (Australia) Olympic 10K Marathon Swim
Jarrod Poort knew what he wanted – an Olympic gold medal. He knew he had to pull out all of the stops to perform the race of his life and realize his dream. The 21-year-old and his coaches James Greathead and Ron McKeon came up with a risky strategy and trained to execute the unlikely plan like his life depended on it. Right from the start of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Poort took off like he was swimming the 1500m freestyle in a pool like he did at the 2012 Olympics. He swam like a man fleeing a shark and immediately built up a huge lead. He had to navigate the course by himself; he had no one to draft. But once he sprinted off, he was confident enough in himself to press the pace. For his gutsy performance against all odds, for sticking to his plan and leading for most of the Olympic final before a dramatic, globally televised collapse, for his post-race self-analysis that was equal parts self-effacing, humorous and deadly serious, Jarrod Poort’s Olympic 10K Marathon Swim is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
11. Javier Mérida Prieto (Spain) Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming
Javier Mérida Prieto can kick, but just not with his right foot or calf, both which he does not have. With his 11 hour 40 minute crossing of the Catalina Channel this summer and previous swims around Manhattan Island and across the English Channel, Mérida became the first amputee to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. Besides competing in triathlons and marathon runs, Mérida completes and competes in a variety of endurance events including marathon swims around the world, all while raising money and awareness for charitable causes. For raising funds for various organizations including the Asociación de Familiares de Alzheimer, for enthusiastically raising awareness for his like-minded causes, for successfully taking upon a number of difficult events of stamina, Javier Mérida Prieto’s Catalina Channel crossing to complete the first amputee Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
12. Patrick McKnight (USA) Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming
Professor Patrick McKnight made two attempts at climbing Mount Everest in 2014 and 2015, but then he turned his focus on completing the fastest Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming in history. The 50-year-old had a target on a record set by a world-class 24-year-old from one of the hotbeds of channel swimming. He made his plans, he bought his airline tickets, and he left no room for going off plan. He started with a Catalina Channel crossing on July 12th in 11 hours 4 minutes; he crossed the English Channel on July 21st in 12 hours 54 minutes; he completed his Manhattan Island circumnavigation on August 15th in 7 hours 31 minutes to break the record by 1 day. For his eclectic interest in conquering challenges from tall mountains to tough channels, for taking on and breaking a record of an elite swimmer less than half his age, for flawlessly pulling off his 34-day plan en route to living a purpose-driven life, Professor Patrick McKnight’s Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
13. Spyridon Gianniotis (Greece) Olympic 10K Marathon Swim
Spyridon Gianniotis participated in five consecutive Olympic Games: Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio. Four times, the 36-year-old Greek distance freestyler qualified for the finals, finishing fourth in 2004 and 2012, but he never quite made it onto the podium. He kept on training and always envisioned an Olympic medal hanging around his neck. Long, lonely, grueling workouts led him to win 7 medals at the World Championships, but the Olympic medal eluded him until he swam the race of his life in Copacabana Beach. As he reeled in the leader, willing the chase pack forward with every fiber in his body, he sprinted to the finish as the oldest man in the field. For never giving up on his dreams, for working hard every day and wholeheartedly committing to his goals, for giving hope to other Greek swimmers and being their inspirational leader for decades, Spyridon Gianniotis’ Olympic 10K Marathon Swim is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
Matías Ola and Jackie Cobell have swum some of the toughest, coldest swims in history. But in a tandem swim of peace and friendship between West Falkland and East Falkland in the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands), they required the ultimate in political planning and logistical operations. As part of the Unir el Mundo project, they pull off a successful crossing of the Strait of San Carlos in 2 hours 37 minutes in 6ºC water between the two main islands of the Falkland Islands. For envisioning and completing their joint swim for harmony 33 years after the end of the war between their two respective nations, for competing a dramatically unprecedented expedition between two islands far from the South American mainland, for being personable and friendly ambassadors of the sport and their respective nations, the Malvinas/Falklands Islands Challenge is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
15. Stephanie Hopson (USA) English Channel Crossing
Stephanie Hopson was on track to complete a crossing of the English Channel. But halfway across, disaster struck 11 hours out from shore. The propeller of her escort boat got tangled in a crab pot and its dangling ropes. The 39-year-old continued to swim in the pitch darkness before her crew aborted her swim. Despite her dreams being dashed by the unexpected, her escort pilot Mike Oram gave her a second chance five days after being pulled from the Channel. Her crews on both her first and second attempts encouraged her to give it a go; she was up to the challenge, both mentally and physically prepared for another opportunity. For ultimately completing the fourth longest English Channel crossing in history, for dreaming big and believing in herself to become a Channel Swimmer, for courageously taking 24 hours 31 minutes to cross the English Channel, Stephanie Hopson’s English Channel Crossing is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
16. Carol Schumacher Hayden (USA) Catalina Channel Crossing
Carol Schumacher Hayden had to overcome more than usual to set the overall age record across any of the Channel Islands in California. At the age of 66, she crossed the 20.2-mile Catalina Channel in 15 hours 2 minutes. But age was not the greatest obstacle for the veteran ocean swimmer. An unexpected injury derailed her attempt for a year. Due to a concussion, she had to deal with its effects during her training. Her headaches and vertigo as well as her memory loss and fatigue were made more intense by training in cold water. But she found the will and the way deep inside herself to power on despite the uncertainty of her health or readiness. For landing spot on at her intended location on the California mainland, for swimming as well as can be after dealing with a long rehabilitation period, for becoming one of the oldest channel swimmers in history, Carol Schumacher Hayden’s Catalina Channel Crossing is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
17. Vasilly Mosin (Russia) Winter Swimming
Vasilly Mosin was born to be a swimmer. He is disciplined and chiseled, broad shoulders tapering down to a slender waist. He is a gentle giant of outdoor swimming pools chiseled out of frozen lakes. He transformed an early retirement in warm-water pools to a powerful streak of sprinting championships at the Winter Swimming World Championships. His flat-out speed in near 0°C water temperatures and frigid conditions is nearly overshadowed by his discussions of global friendship and mutual respect across borders and cultures. For his sincere encouragement of all ice swimmers of all ages and abilities, for his blazing speed as the world’s fastest cold water swimmer, for his deeply felt sense of friendship and solidarity with those who love the water and the ice, Vasilly Mosin’s ice swimming sprints are a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
Previous recipients of the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year include:
2009: Andrew Smilley (Cayman Islands) RCP Tiburon Mile
2010: Ventura Deep Six by Jim McConica, Tom Ball, Kurtis Baron, Jim Neitz, Mike Shaffer, John Chung (USA) 202-mile relay along the California coast in 4 days 5 hours
2011: Nejib Belhedi (Tunisia) 1400K Swim Across Tunisia
2012: Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil Spain) Descenso a Nado Ría de Navia
2013: Bering Strait Swim (Russia-USA) 6-day 86 km relay with 121 swimmers across the Bering Strait
2014: Diomede Islands Swim by Alexandr Brylin and Grigorii Prokopchuk (Russia)
2015: Andrea Fazio (Italy) Strait of Messina record
To vote for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, visit the WOWSA Awards here.
Voting continues until December 31st 2016.
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