One of the most appreciated compliments received by any athlete is from one’s own peers.
The Class of 2018 honorees in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame represent the largest group of individuals to be inducted in a single year over the institution’s history.
Each one of this year’s inductees are remarkable athletes who have completed incredible feats in the open water, as well as exceptional humans who lead inspirational lives on dryland. Some have achieved greatness in competitive events, some in solo crossings, some in unprecedented marathon swims. While their greatest swims are publicly well-known, it is the relentless dedication and numerous hours they put in hard, solitary training year after year that enable them to complete their swims in lakes, river, seas and oceans around the world.
The honorees are selected by their peers who include Nick Adams, Tamara Bruce, Penny Dean, Yuko Matsuzaki, David O’Brien, Skip Storch, Valerio Valli, Forrest Nelson, David Barra, Dr. Osama Ahmed Momtaz, Michael P. Read, MBE, Peter Bales, Elizabeth Fry, Marcella MacDonald, DPM, Captain Tim Johnson, Vojislav Mijić, Ricardo Ratto, Dr. Jane Katz, Valerie Parsons, Lynn Blouin, Kathrin Lammers, Sally Minty-Gravett, MBE, Evan Morrison, Philip Rush, Dan Simonelli, Ben Barham, Penny Palfrey, Carol Sing, Natalya Pankina, Petar Stoychev, Silvia Dalotto, Stéphane Lecat, Kevin Murphy, Greg Streppel, Peter van Vooren, Jacques Tuset, Attila Mányoki, and John York.
The Class of 2018 includes a fast pool swimmer-turned-Olympic 10K medalist Poliana Okimoto from Brazil.
The 34-year-old has won world championship titles, Pan American titles, FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup titles, national Brazilian championships, professional races of various distances from Hong Kong to Rio de Janeiro, and was named Brazil’s Top Athlete in 2013 and received the Premio Brasil Olimpico, the most prestigious sports award given by the Brazilian Olympic Committee.
But her career all came down to the 10 km race off of Copacabana Beach at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. There was tremendous pressure on one of the darlings of the Brazilian women’s sporting community with the eyes of the nation upon her and teammate Ana Marcela Cunha. In a fast-paced race on a hastily-organized course (that had been destroyed by large waves right before the day of the race), Okimoto came through.
She didn’t win gold, but she was able to stand proud as the bronze medalist watching the Brazilian flag being hoisted from the Olympic podium.
The joy and relief in receiving an Olympic medal was palpable as she and her coach/husband Ricardo Cintra celebrated the hardest, most pressure-packed swim of her life. She is the only woman to have qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (7th), 2012 London Olympics (DNF) and 2016 Rio Olympics – with aims to go for her fourth consecutive Olympics at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
In other major championships, Okimoto has been consistently placing among the best in the world over the past decade:
* 2016 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Rio de Janeiro: Bronze medal in 1:56:51.4, +19.7 seconds behind gold
* 2015 FINA World Championships 10 km in Kazan: 6th in 1:58:28.8, +24.5 seconds behind gold
* 2013 FINA World Championships 5 km in Barcelona: Silver medal in 56:34.4, +0.2 seconds behind gold
* 2013 FINA World Championships 10 km in Barcelona: Gold medal in 1:58:19.2
* 2012 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in London: DNF
* 2011 FINA World Championships 5 km in Shanghai: 11th in 1:00:48.3, +8.6 seconds behind gold
* 2011 FINA World Championships 10 km in Shanghai: 6th in 2:02:13.6, +15.5 seconds behind gold
* 2010 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships 5 km in Roberval: 4th in 1:02:02.79, +1.8 seconds behind gold
* 2010 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships 10 km in Roberval: DQ
* 2009 FINA World Championships 5 km in Rome: 3rd in 56:59.3, +3.5 seconds behind gold
* 2009 FINA World Championships 10 km in Rome: 7th in 2:01:41.5, +4.4 seconds behind gold
* 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Rio de Janeiro: 7th in 1:59:37.4, +9.7 seconds behind gold
* 2008 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships 10 km in Sevilla: 6th in 2:02:13.5, +10.8 seconds behind gold
* 2007 FINA World Championships 5 km in Melbourne: 6th in 1:00:48.7, +7.4 seconds behind gold
* 2007 FINA World Championships 10 km in Melbourne: 6th in 2:04:09.1, +11.2 seconds behind gold
* 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro: Silver medal in 2:13:48.4, +0.8 seconds behind gold
* 2006 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships 5 km in Napoli: Silver medal in 1:08:27.6, +7.9 seconds behind gold
* 2006 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships 10 km in Napoli: Silver medal in 2:19:59.3, +9.4 seconds behind gold
“Poliana is always in the thick of things in the lead pack in races up to 10 km – her specialty,” said Steven Munatones. “Brazil can always count on her to be in medal contention no matter what the conditions are or who the competition is. She is not physically imposing, but she has a heart and a passion for the sport like few others.
In one the most memorable races in recent history, Okimoto demonstrated her competitive spirit. At the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, a mere 9 seconds separated the top 19 swimmers in the women’s 10 km race. And many of the rest of the 51-swimmer field were not that far behind. The pace was blistering; the competition was fierce; it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting races in the annals of competitive open water swimming. For nearly two hours, the world’s fastest open water swimmers gave it everything they had…only to follow in the wake of Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto and her teammate Ana Marcela Cunha. For participating in a race that could not be realistically closer, Okimoto came out on top.
She is also personable and an outstanding ambassador of the sport whether it is in front of young impressionable age-group swimmers or in front of the Brazilian media.”
“Poliana and the other new members of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame emulate those exceptional 269 forerunners already enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Since the class of 1963, our marathon swimming inductees from around the world have received the ultimate marathon swimming recognition. They have been immortalized with their names inscribed on the IMSHOF Sea Goddess, our ‘symbol of the sea’,” explained Chairman Christopher Guesdon.
“When Captain Matthew Webb RN conquered the English Channel in 1875 nobody would have thought such a worldwide movement of marathon swimming would be born and where ethics and morals are paramount in pursuit of a successful marathon. The induction ceremony will be held on March 31st 2018 at The Chapel, Beaumont Estate, Old Windsor, UK.”
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