The nominees for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year are an heroic and impressive group of individuals with exceptional exploits, histories and lifestyles.
The nominees come from all over the world, although there are undoubtedly many more deserving nominees in addition to these individuals. There are always swimmers who accomplish remarkable feats and achieve mind-boggling goals that go under the radar internationally. But each one of these nominees makes a significant impact locally, nationally, and internationally.
The WOWSA Awards are not necessarily for the best athletes, but are meant to honor the men and women who:
* best embody the spirit of open water swimming,
* possess the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and
* have most positively influenced the world of open water swimming in calendar year 2016.
and products, events and services that:
* best support and assist open water swimmers achieve their goals,
* are innovative, unique and beneficial to open water swimmers, race directors, coaches or administrators, and
* have made the most positive impact on the world of open water swimming during the calendar year.
These nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year include the following inspirational individuals:
1. Roger Finch (South Africa)
Roger Finch has literally traveled the world, smiling, swigging and swimming to his heart’s desire…and to the rest of the global open water swimming community’s joy. Finch trained in South Africa for a Cook Strait swim that never got off the shore due to inclement weather, but he was able to get in a Robben Island crossing in Cape Town, encourage David Barra to set up the 20 Bridges Swim, a Circumnavigation Swim of Manhattan in New York for his friend Tracy Clark, and then crew for her and many others crossing the English Channel. Along the way, Finch unexpectedly had a stroke and was hospitalized. Down, but not out, his revival was touch-and-go, but his physicality and mindset enabled him to recover well enough to later complete a Boston Light Swim as well as head up the Varne Ridge English Channel Swim Camp outside of Dover and raise money for a new wheelchair for Ros Hardiman, a fellow English Channel swimmer. For his globally-renown good nature and high spirits, for his remarkable rebound from what could have been a debilitating stroke, and for his humble, wholehearted generosity in helping other open water swimmers around the world, Roger Finch is a well-deserving nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
2. Seti Afoa (Samoa)
For three millennia, the people of Samoa have been entering the Pacific Ocean. Now Seti Afoa is expanding his cultural heritage to a friendly, international, competitive embodiment of his naturally beautiful environment. Afoa is extraordinarily busy man with a grand vision to make Samoa a South Pacific nation that brings local and foreign swimmers together in a number of events in Samoa, supported by the national health service, government and tourism officials, and people of the local villages. For organizing 18 ocean races and swimming holidays from short 400m swims for kids and 22.3 km inter-island marathon challenges, for welcoming and encouraging a mix of local and international participants in a celebration of the sport, for combining local traditions with safe, professionally managed events meeting international standards, Seti Afoa is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
3. Tomi Stefanovski (Macedonia)
Tomi Stefanovski has been competitive on the world-class level for three decades. While masters swimmers comprise of the largest demographic group in the sport of open water swimming, there is no 40-somethings as competitive as the Macedonian water polo player-turned-professional marathon swimmer. In 2016, he did the unthinkable again. Not only did he place third in the 32 km Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean, seventh in the 36 km Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli, and win the 33 km Ohrid Lake Swim Marathon, but he also captured the overall title of the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix as a 45-year-old, tying with a man 20 years his junior, a remarkable 20 years after he captured his initial FINA Grand Prix title. For coming back after 6 shoulder surgeries and never complaining about tough conditions or the cold, for positively and ably serving as a multilingual ambassador of the sport, for continuing his frequent podium finishes over an incredibly lengthy career, Tomi Stefanovski is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
4. Edoardo Stochino (Italy)
Edoardo Stochino has trained for years in the shadows of more renowned Italian stallions of the open water world. He has competed in races around the world and represented his native Italy in short races and the longest on the professional marathon swimming circuit. But 2016 saw Stochino finally break out and win his first overall title on the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix. He finished second in the 33 km Ohrid Lake Swimming Marathon in Macedonia and in the 32 km Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean in Canada, and ended the season with a gutsy performance in the 36 km Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli in Italy. The 29-year-old stuck with his year-round training program and never gave up on himself as he finally reached his goal on top of the Grand Prix. For his commitment to the sport and to his national team, for his sustained focus on training, and for his genuine love of racing in lakes, seas and oceans, Edoardo Stochino is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
5. Ferry Weertman (Netherlands)
Ferry Weertman has put in the miles in the pool, in the open water, and in airplanes as he devoted his life to becoming an Olympic champion. He realized his dream come true with his dramatic victory at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games 10 km marathon swim. He won gold under the most stressful of circumstances. But the 24-year-old Dutchman stuck with his original plan and reeled in the initial Australian leader who was over 100 meters ahead of him during the second half of the race. In a final sprint for the ages, Weertman out-sprinted, outstretched and out-touched Greece’s Spyridon Gianniotis to win. He did not even realize he won until he received a text on the beach from his friends halfway around the world. For his competitive spirit and composure under pressure in winning the Olympic gold in Rio, for his genuinely warm personality in answering questions from fans and the media around the world, for committing himself 100% to realize his dreams and believing in his preparation, Ferry Weertman is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
6. Nejib Belhedi (Tunisia)
Nejib Belhedi is one of the very few individuals who have carved out a clear niche in the sport. Similar to Lynne Cox in her ice swimming exploits, Lewis Pugh in his extreme swimming events, and Martin Strel for his river stage swims, the former Lieutenant Colonel has singlehandedly created the World Iron Swim tour, and has dramatically pulled children and adults in multi-ton boats in televised extravaganzas. Along the way, he has cheerfully inspired many of all ages and walks of life in his native Tunisia and throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East to take up swimming and their own personal challenges. For his creativity of organizing increasingly more difficult World Iron Swims, for successfully pulling 2 boat totaling 70 tons 550 meters in 20 minutes in Bizerta Channel and for pulling another 70-ton ship called Mohamed Ali 350 meters in 39 minutes in Port El Kantaoui, for continuously and widely promoting swims of peace and the joy, challenge and healthfulness of open water swimming for people of all ages, Nejib Belhedi is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
7. Ger Kennedy (Ireland)
Ger Kennedy is one of the world’s grittiest, guttiest swimmers specializing in The Ice. His phenomenal 52-meter Under Ice Swimming challenge in -1ºC (30.2ºF) water in Yakutsk, Russia is an example of how the Irish ice swimmer loves to push his body and mind in myriad ways – and help others do the same. He completed an hour Ice Bath Challenge and raced in various Ice Swimming Championship events from above the Arctic Circle to Tyumen to Lake Windermere. He also tirelessly organized the Great Wicklow 10 km Swim, the Petrified Forest 6 km Open Sea Swim, the Great Dublin Swim on behalf of the East Coast of Ireland Open Water. Whether it is Ironman swims in his native Ireland or ice swimming around the world, Kennedy lends a helping hand, a friendly eye, and a watchful eye for those who seek his advice. He also conceived of the Ice Sevens Challenge, the cold water swimming equivalent of the Oceans Seven. For his under-freezing-water swim in the Lena River, for helping others achieve their open water dreams, for his creativity in establishing the Ice Sevens, Ger Kennedy is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
8. Alex Kostich (USA)
Alex Kostich has always been a very fast swimmer. Although he first established his world-class credentials in the swimming pool as a young age-group swimmer and collegiate swimmer at Stanford University and at the Pan American Games, his open water swimming career has been highlighted by winning and finishing on the podium for decades in some of the most competitive ocean swims on the planet. For 24 consecutive years between the ages of 23 and 46, Kostich has finished the Top 10 at the Waikiki Roughwater Swim against Olympians, professional swimmers and men half his age. His track record is unparalleled not only in Hawaii, but also in the Caribbean Sea where he has dominated a number of races like the St. Croix Coral Reef Swim Race that he has won 18 times. For keeping up near-daily hard 8000-meter workouts while working on major Hollywood films, for spreading kind words and sharing his personal experiences about these open water swims on social media, for demonstrating that age is much less a factor in staying competitive than a healthy lifestyle, a passion for the sport, and daily commitment to training, Alex Kostich is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
9. Masayuki Moriya (Japan)
Japanese live in an island nation that stretches from the tropical paradise of Okinawa to its northerly prefecture of Hokkaido surrounded by the northern Pacific. Masayuki Moriya travels from north to south, east to west, traversing the entire nation while sharing his passion for open water swimming as a coach, race director, safety officer, channel swimming crew member, blogger, administrator and swimming holiday leader. He teaches newcomers including elderly masters swimmers and helps organize domestic championships for elite Japanese athletes. For his deep heartfelt love of open water swimming that he genuinely espouses in all his activities, for his leadership of the sport in the island nation of Japan, for his patience and investment of time and energy to help develop the sport in the Far East, Masayuki Moriya is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
10. Colin Hill (Great Britain)
Colin Hill is always around the shoreline, serving as either as a swimmer, television commentator, FINA representative, event organizer or ambassador. He runs events like the Big Chill Swim in Windermere to the Chillswim Coniston – 5.25 miles End to End. He quickly established a new era with the Great Swim Series and the 2012 London Olympics 10K. His sweeping influence over the sport has helped usher in the mass participation events sanctioned by FINA as well as providing boat support for hundreds of swimmers to swim across Windermere. He has the ear of the most influential powerbrokers in aquatics and is looked upon with respect from the hundreds of thousands of newbies that have participated in events established by the 46-year-old dynamo. For his globetrotting activities to promote safety and mass participation in open water swimming, for his flawless execution of local and international competitions in Windermere and beyond, for his boundless joy in swimming in The Ice, across channels and lakes, and in the tropics, Colin Hill is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
11. Ingemar Patiño Macarine (Philippines)
Ingemar Patiño Macarine has transitioned from a middle-aged attorney to an inspirational athlete and channel swimming pioneer with a growing domestic and international fan base. He has dreamed big and significantly energized the Filipino swimming community with an unparalleled track record of unprecedented solo marathon swims throughout his native Philippines. In 2016, he pioneered 5 different swims including a 10.9 km Sumilon Island channel swim, a 15.1 km Bohol Sea crossing, a 10.3 km crossing of Subic Bay, a 14.7 km Tañon Strait crossing, and a 16.8 km Cebu Strait crossing, but it was his well-promoted English Channel attempt and constant promotion of clean seas, marine conservation, and local tourism that caught the attention of a nation. For encouraging a populace to enjoy and protect their surrounding marine environment, for eloquently explaining to a nation about the risks of an English Channel crossing, for continuing to conquer new channel and strait swims in a country with innumerable possibilities through his charity swims, Ingemar Patiño Macarine is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
12. Lewis Pugh (Great Britain)
Lewis Pugh swapped his swimsuit for a dress suit this year, but his legacy as the United Nations Patron of the Oceans was most effectively established as a result. His tireless diplomatic efforts in dealing with politicians, government leaders and bureaucrats directly led to the establishment of the Ross Sea as a Marine Protected Area, a crowning achievement of his ocean advocacy. His passionate education and lobbying of the 25 member nations of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources led to a positive vote to create the world’s largest protected area. For his logistics, organization and successful execution of his Five Swims in Antarctica for 1 Reason, for connecting these unprecedented solo swims with follow-up concrete action at the highest levels of government, for helping protect the Southern Ocean for the future benefit of mankind through his Speedo diplomacy and dramatic swims, Lewis Pugh is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
13. Christof Wandratsch (Germany)
Christof Wandratsch has always remained a flat-out, mind-boggling, world-class swimmer across channels, in lakes, down rivers, and in seas and oceans, but he has now extended his expertise to ice swimming. The 50-year-old was the world champion in 200 meters and 450 meters at the 10th World Championships in Siberia’s Tyumen and was the overall champion of the International Winter Swimming Association World Cup as well as leading ice swimming camps and setting records across the Bodensee, and hosting the Ice Swimming German Open. For his speed at any distance and any water temperatures and in any open water venue, for his cool-headed administration and inspirational ambassadorship in the ice swimming community, and for his cheerfulness and joy in sharing his love of the open water and ice swimming, Christof Wandratsch is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
Previous recipients of the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year include:
2008: Randy Nutt (USA) race director and swimming advocate
2009: Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria) professional marathon swimmer
2010: Marcos Díaz (Dominican Republic) United Nations Millennium Development ambassador
2011: Jamie Patrick (USA) swimmer, event organizer, crew member, governing body administrator
2012: Stephen Redmond (Ireland) Oceans Seven swimmer
2013: Pádraig Mallon (Ireland) channel swimmer, endurance athlete
2014: Henri Kaarma (Estonia) ice swimmer
2015: Antonio Argüelles Díaz-González (Mexico) channel swimmer
Voting continues until December 31st 2016.
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