Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil received the 2012 WOWSA Award for the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

The heart and soul of Descenso a Nado de la Ría de Navia works year-round on putting together the most comprehensive open water swimming festival in the world – from parades to festivals, from amateur swims to professional races, the Descenso is a marvel.

His WOWSA nomination reads, “For 55 years, the Descenso a Nado Ría de Navia has captured the hearts and minds of the small town of Navia in northern Spain.

For 55 of the 55 years, Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil or Moreno for short has been the heart and soul of the Descenso. The dances and the drama, the pageantry and the parades, the races and the revelry of the race are intimately ingrained in a truly magical week of non-stop activities. This priority on the athletes, this melding of culture and competition only comes about by a larger-than-life personality who places open water swimming at the center of his life’s work day in and day out, year in and year out.

For his ability to inspire the community and sponsors, for his ability to weave the traditions of northern Spain so magnificently to a swim down a river, for his efforts to place smiles on swimmers of all generations for days on end, for his 24/7 availability to create a most picturesque event where swimmers are all placed on the top podium of priority, the year-round efforts of Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil are a worthy nominee for the 2012 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.”

Juan Ignacio Martínez Fernández-Villamil has given so much to his community and to the sport of open water swimming that he has served as a mentor to many and an inspiration to all.

Photography by Ray Terry.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming