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 including Zhang Jian who is relatively little known outside his native China – but who has been passionately swimming, coaching and promoting in the open water world for decades, including on China Central Television.
Each one of this year’s inductees are remarkable athletes who have completed incredible feats in the open water and are exceptional humans who lead inspirational lives on dryland. Some have achieved greatness in competitive races, some in solo crossings, some in unprecedented 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, and seas 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.
Zhang Jian swims and coaches athletes while serving as the dean and former sports director at the Beijing Sports University. In addition to crossing the English Channel in 11 hours 56 minutes in 2001, he founded the Zhang Jian Open Water Swimming Team and has successfully pioneered the crossing of several open bodies of water in China including:
* 29.5 km crossing of the Qiongzhou Strait in 9 hours 20 minutes in 1988
* 123 km crossing of Bohai Bay from Liaoning to Guangdong in 2000 in 50 hours 22 minutes in a wetsuit, covered by China Central Television
* 69 km crossing of Xingkai Lake in 2010 in 36 hours 30 minutes in a wetsuit, covered by China Central Television
* 35 km crossing of Fuxianhu Lake in 12 hours 1 minute in 2001
* 35 km crossing of Ling-Ding Sea (Pearl River estuary) from Hong Kong to Macau in 10 hours 43 minutes in 2005
One swim that he still hopes to do is become the first person to swim across the 141 km (87.6 miles) Taiwan Strait. “It would be a dream come true,” he said about the idea that was first born when he swam across the km Qiongzhou Strait.
But he continues to coach swimmers in all kinds of swims including a 15-mile high-altitude swim (4,200 meters) across Kanas Lake in 10°C water in China’s Xinjiang Province.
In order to help his athletes prepare for cold water training, Jian helps his students, athletes and colleagues at Beijing Sports University acclimate as best they can. He purposefully turning off the pool heater and pours up to 10 tons of ice into the pool.
“We want to create a low-temperature environment,” he explained after turning off the pool’s heater for 10 days as the pool temperature dropped to 18°F (64°F), compared to its normal temperature of 26°C (78.8°F).
After the pool’s warmth evaporated, the acclimatization training begins as he dumps tons of ice into the pool. “The melting ice will take some time with chunks still floating on the surface. We have a stringent training regimen to help ensure the success of our marathon swimming attempts and to be responsible for the safety of the athletes. We want them to be able to adapt to all kinds of harsh environments and to be able to deal with various emergency situations.”
Up to 36 swimmers participate in his 5 km training sessions.
While his coaching expectations may be stringent, Jian wants everyone to more concerned about their health. “Everyone needs to attend to their own physical well-being. If so, our country’s national fitness level will improve.”
“Zhang was one of the pioneers of marathon swims and high-altitude swims in China. He was a true adventurer,” said Steven Munatones. “And now he is working hard to expand the sport of open water swimming in China – really pushing the government, both local and national, and his fellow citizens to take up the sport.”
“Zhang 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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