Courtesy of WOWSA, San Francisco, California.

Shelley Taylor-Smith experienced quite a year in 1991.

Not only did she turn tradition on its head by wearing a two-piece swimsuit for the first time in history of FINA competitions. At the 1991 FINA World Swimming Championships held in Perth, Australia, she won the inaugural 25 km open water race in 5 hours 21 minutes 5.23 seconds over Americans Martha Jahn (5 hours 25 minutes 16.67 seconds) and Karen Burton (5 hours 28 minutes 22.74 seconds).

The 7-time world professional marathon swimming champion and her Australian teammate Tammy van Wisse both wore bikini suits, but had to first seek special FINA permission to wear the bikinis. FINA issued a news release that stated the suits were respectable for competition.

In reality, Taylor-Smith was more practical in her reasoning for the two-piece. The hometown Aussie knew there would be many jellyfish throughout the 25 km course in Swan River. “I wore this bikini because the jellyfish were everywhere. I wanted to be able to let them out of my suit or get them out with easy access and not disturb my mental focus and mindset which they are renowned for doing. I won the race and gritted my teeth as I got stung.”

While winning the inaugural open water event at the FINA World Championships will always be something to be proud of, the next chapter of her life really helped establish her legacy.

Over the history of the professional marathon swimming circuit since the 1950s in its various formats (i.e., International Marathon Swimming Association and World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation), men and women had always competed together – competing for the same prize purses.

This necessarily meant that women earned less than men with a few rare wins by Greta Andersen and Judith van Berkel-de Nijs and others who came close like Sandra Bucha.

But Taylor-Smith changed the equation in 1991. That year, she earned the unprecedented overall No.1 world ranking on the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation circuit for both men and women – a feat that has never been accomplished by any other woman in any other athletic endeavor going up head-to-head against men.

Taylor-Smith will describe that year in detail as part of the 2018 WOWSA Talks and WOWSA Awards held at The Olympic Club in downtown San Francisco on November 10th.

And Shelley will explain, very importantly, how her victory over the world’s best marathoning men forever changed – for the better – the available cash prize money for women on the professional marathon swimming circuit,” says Steven Munatones. “Her ranking leveled the prize field that was never made available for women. Her talk about this year will be fascinating at the Olympic Club.”

The Olympic Club will host a great number of accomplished open water swimmers who have established their own iconic legacies in the sport:

* Evan Morrison of the Marathon Swimmers Federation on LongSwims database, insights and data analyses
* Oceans Seven swimmer Darren Miller on Utilizing Your Dryland Talents In The Open Water
* Dan Simonelli of the Open Water Swim Academy on Planning and Logistics of a Channel Swim
* Ed Rudloff and Mike McCaffery on The History of Open Water Swimming at the Olympic Club since 1860
* Bill Brenner, Chief Operating Officer of U.S. Masters Swimming on Open Water Swimming with U.S. Masters Swimming
* Bryce Elser, USA Swimming National Team Open Water Director, on Athlete Progression to Podium Success
* Shelley Taylor-Smith, 7-time world marathon swimming champion on The Year 1991
* Ram Barkai of the International Ice Swimming Association on The Future of Ice Swimming
* Multiple world record holder Pat Gallant-Charette on Never Too Old
* Oceans Seven swimmer Cameron Bellamy on Achieving The Oceans Seven
* Farallons Island and Oceans Seven swimmer Kimberley Chambers on Making A Comeback
* Ben Lecomte on Swimming Across The Pacific Ocean
* Sally Minty-Gravett, MBE on Rising To The Occasion
* Steven Munatones on Tactics and Strategies Used at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim
* Double Triple Crowner Antonio Argüelles of Mexico, World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* American Ice Sevens swimmer Jaimie Monahan, 2016 and 2017 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Spaniard Margarita Llorens Bagur, World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* Sea Donkey with Adrian Sarchet and James Harrison of Guernsey, World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.“

For more information on the 2018 WOWSA Talks and WOWSA Awards, visit here.

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