The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) announced that two Floridians, Sandra Bucha of Bradenton and Jon Erikson of Boca Raton, will be inducted into the ISHOF’s Class of 2014 as Open Water Swimmers.

They will join 13 other athletes, coaches and contributors from the FINA-governed aquatic sports into the ISHOF Class of 2014 from 8 nations, including Grant Hackett from Australia, Agnes Kovacs of Hungary, Tom Malchow of the USA, Peng Bo of China, Penny and Vicky Vilagos of Canada, Carlo Silipo of Italy, Karen Kuipers of the Netherlands, coaches Charlotte Davis of the USA, coach Jozsef Nagy of Hungary.

Bruce S. Hopping of the USA, Norman Sarsfield of Great Britain and Chuck Wielgus of the USA will be honored as Contributors to the sport. The Enshrinement ceremonies will be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, June 13th – 15th 2014.

Bruce Wigo, President of the ISHOF, explains Bucha’s honor. “Before pools became commonplace, humans swam exclusively in the open water. By the end of the 19th Century, marathon or open water swimming competitions attracted what many in the “amateur” athletic and Olympic movements considered a disreputable class of professional swimmers. Thus it was rare that a pool swimmer would cross-over from the “amateur” pool to the open water and impossible for the revers. This year, ISHOF will honor two swimmers who helped pave the road for open water to become recognized as an Olympic and World Championship event.

Historically, open water swimming was professional. Other than the likes of Norman Ross, Gertrude Ederle, Greta Anderson, there were few if any world-class pool swimmers who participated in the open water marathon races – until John and Sandra. While it was many years in the future, I believe that these two started the long journey of respect for open water swimmers in the eyes of FINA.

Rather than retire from swimming after her high school days in Hinsdale, Illinois, as was the case with most female American swimmers in the pre-Title IX era, Bucha joined the male-dominated professional marathon circuit and competed against the men, mano-a-mano. In the 9 marathon swim races in which she competed in between 1973 and 1975, Sandy finished first in the female gender, undefeated in every race. Only once did she come in third to male swimmer and every other swim she finished a close second to the first male swimmer, usually her high school teammate and Hall of Fame swimmer, John Kinsella.

As her Hinsdale coach Don Watson pointed out, “If John were not of her era, she would have won five professional marathon swims outright.” In partnership with Kinsella, Sandy and John twice won the 24 Heures La Tuque, the incomparable non-stop relay that showcased the ultimate one-two punch from Hinsdale.”

Bucha not only joins her high school and professional tandem partner Kinsella in the Hall of Fame, but her brother Paul “Buddy” Bucha, is a recipient of both the Congressional Medal of Honor and ISHOF’s highest recognition, the Gold Medallion Award.

Photo shows John Kinsella, Sandra Bucha and Phil Dodson with Coach Don Watson after the 10-mile Chicago Lake Swim in 1974.

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