2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman Of The Year Nominees

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The WOWSA Awards are an annual selection of outstanding individuals and offerings in the following categories:

* World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.

The WOWSA Awards winners are selected by the public in an online poll where one vote is allowed by one computer/one person.

In 2018, Ion Lazarenco Tiron of the Republic of Moldava was the Man of the Year, Aleksandra Bednarek of Poland was the Woman of the Year, Ross Edgley‘s Great British Swim won the Performance of the Year, and Icebears Hintertux by Josef Köberl won the Offering of the Year.

The nominees for the 2019 World Open Water Woman of the Year, listed alphabetically, are as follows:

2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year Nominees:
1. Alisa Fatum (Germany)
2. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil)
3. Bhakti Sharma (India)
4. Chloë McCardel (Australia)
5. Elizabeth Fry (USA)
6. Mariel Hawley Dávila (Mexico)
7. Nora Toledano Cadena (Mexico)
8. Pilar Geijo (Argentina)
9. Rachele Bruni (Italy)
10. Sarah Thomas (USA)
11. Susan Simmons (Canada)
12. Xin Xin (China)

1. Alisa Fatum (Germany)
Alisa Fatum is so fast that only 5 men in history (Sven Elfferich, Petar Stoychev, Fergil Hesterman, Conor Turner and Rostislav Vítek) have swum a faster Ice Kilometer than her world record of 12:48:70 that she set at the Ice Swimming Aqua Sphere German Open in Germany. Relative to the world’s top male swimmers, Fatum holds the fastest relative time of any female at any distance or any stroke – as she swam in 1.40°C water. Her other two Ice Kilometers of 2019 were also incredibly fast: 13:21:16 at the Zollhaus Open and 13:02:39 in 0.00°C water at the International Ice Swimming Association World Championships where she would have placed 6th among the world’s fastest men). The 24-year-old also won the 50m butterfly (32:76), 50m freestyle (29:68), 200m freestyle (2:20:00), and 500m freestyle (6:19:40) – with no flip turns or dives – at the IISA® World Cup in Veitsbronn. For winning the Ice Kilometer and 500m freestyle and finishing 2nd in the 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle at the IISA 3rd World Championship within the Arctic Circle, for winning the inaugural IISA World Cup Series title, and for elevating the expectations and speed of female ice swimmers so early in her emerging career, Alisa Fatum is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

2. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil)
There is no one more active on the professional marathon swimming scene than 27-year-old Ana Marcela Cunha from São Paolo. She remains a force to be reckoned with under any conditions – warm or cold, turbulent or tranquil – anywhere (Asia, Americas, Europe) any distance anytime against anyone. Her consistency is so remarkable that it is more noteworthy when Cunha is not on the podium than when she is. Over a 6-day span at 2019 FINA World Championships, Cunha qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games by finishing 5th in the 10 km on Day 1, won the 5 km on Day 4, led off 4th place Team Brazil in the 5 km relay on Day 5, and then won her fourth career 25 km marathon on Day 6 (after winning in 2011, 2015 and 2017). She also won the Pan American Games 10 km in Lima. She also won the 10 km race in Taiwan’s Sun Moon Lake and finished 2nd in the FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series after winning races in Nantou (China), Setúbal Bay (Portugal), and Lake Ohrid (North Macedonia). For being the most dominant open water swimmer at the FINA World Championships, for coming back to world-class stature after a serious health scare where her spleen was removed, and for her constant smile and affable spirit in racing around the world despite long flights and sponsor demands, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

3. Bhakti Sharma (India)
Bhakti Sharma has launched a professional career in education and motivational speaking as she inspires the next generation of girls and young women. Her message is based on her success as a channel swimmer, marathon swimmer and ice swimmer in her teenage years, and is delivered by multilingual digital platforms. She has given 4 TEDx Talks and 1 TED Talk on the main platform, numerous TV interviews and public speeches extolling the benefits of a life of adventure, courageousness and resilience. She positively impacts countless individuals as she shares her early aquatic exploits from Antarctica to the English Channel with audiences around the world. She started Swim to Educate initiative in India and has now expanded her message of inspiration to span from India to the U.S. For helping transform lives of students and young people with a message of hope, for sharing her dreams in the digital space and in college classrooms, for her eloquent and passionate talks given in an authentic genuine voice, Bhakti Sharma is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

4. Chloë McCardel (Australia)
There is usually no swimmer as active as Chloë McCardel is on the English Channel – and this summer was no different as she pushed her English Channel crossing career total to 31 with 24 Channel Swimming Association awards. She completed another 4 solo swims this summer: 10:35 on July 23rd, 10:26 on August 2nd, 10:04 on August 12th, and 11:37 on September 2nd – in addition to a solo Catalina Channel Swim (10:05 to achieve the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming). She also dedicated significant time to coach 6 soloists (Kiel Johns in 14:07, Jason Osuchowski in 11:44, Nick Mauger in 10:42, Callum Eade in 10:56, Rick Seirer in a 29:46 2-way, Peter Tucker in 15:38) and 3 relays (5-person Can Too in 14:34, 5-person Tenacious Turtles in 13:43, 4-person Home and Away in 11:55) across the English Channel and threw in an Olympic triathlon relay in Bahrain. For coaching the 59-year-old Most Meritorious Swim winner and the 63-year-old Oldest Successful Swimmer in the English Channel, for receiving CSA awards for the Fastest Swim on the Highest Tide, the Fastest Solo Swim, and the Fastest Swim by a Lady, and for spending time, effort and energy to become today’s most prolific Channel swimmer while inspiring, mentoring and crewing for other swimmers of all ages and abilities, Chloë McCardel is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

5. Elizabeth Fry (USA)
Elizabeth Fry continues to do what she loves doing…as she seems to be getting better and better at it. Channel swimming is her thing; marathon swimming is her specialty. She swims and achieves records in a humble, mild-mannered way, smiling and expressing heartfelt appreciate every step of the way to her successes. In addition to serving as the long-time race director of the 25 km St. Vincent’s Foundation Swim Across the Sound, she completed a 23 km crossing of the Cook Strait from the North Island to the South Island in New Zealand in 9 hours 32 minutes and a 35 km crossing of the North Channel from Northern Ireland to Scotland in 11 hours 13 minutes at the age of 60 years 301 days to achieve the Oceans Seven and become the oldest person – male or female – to do so. She is role model and an icon to many, always sharing kind words and her boundless energy with anyone who ventures past the shoreline. She faces high stress in the financial services industry by day and swims by choice for relaxation, her preferred aquatic meditation where she continues to impress even the world’s most elite marathon swimmers. For becoming the oldest individual to complete the Oceans Seven, for continuing to challenge herself and serve as an iconic role model for marathon swimmers of all ages, and for continuing to support and provide leadership in one of the world’s most successful charity swims, Elizabeth Fry is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

6. Mariel Hawley Dávila (Mexico)
For years through her marathon swims and channel crossings, attorney Mariel Hawley Dávila has been raising money for Quiero Sonreír to fund surgeries for Mexican children with cleft lips and palate, paying for oncological treatments for children with cancer, working with women in jail, and promoting health via Mexicanos Activos. Her selflessness and widespread charitable works are constants in her life. She swims, she works, she writes, and she is a working mother who had to struggle on after the death of her husband in 2015. But she continued channel swimming and ultimately achieved the Oceans Seven with a 23 km Cook Strait crossing in 11 hours 45 minutes as well as a 32 km Los Cabos Open Water Acuarium in 10 hours 14 minutes in Mexico. For publishing her first English-language book Like the Heart of the Sea: Always at Peace and her initial book Días Azules about her marathon swimming exploits, for completing her long Oceans Seven journey in triumph across the Cook Strait on the same day as did her close friend and coach, and for being a strong, resilient, selfless mother in face of adversity, unexpected obstacles and seemingly insurmountable challenges, Mariel Hawley Dávila is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

7. Nora Toledano Cadena (Mexico)
Nora Toledano Cadena has long been involved in open water swimming, both domestically in Mexico and internationally in some of the most difficult channels and professional marathon swims around the world. She was the first Mexican inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and has inspired, mentored and coached innumerable Mexican and Latin American swimmers of all ages for decades. This year, she coached 21 major international open water swimming crossings, all of which were completed successfully. Her speeches and her book – A cada brazada: el azul interminable (Each Stroke: Endless Blue) – describe her channel crossings and how lessons from those challenges can be applied in real life. After all her successes and occasional obstacles, she crossed the 23 km Cook Strait in 9 hours 54 minutes to complete the Oceans Seven at the age of 49. For crossing the English Channel (6 times including a two-way swim), Catalina Channel, Molokai Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, Tsugaru Channel, North Channel, Cook Strait to achieve the Oceans Seven, for continuing to lead and advise the open water swimming community in Mexico, and for remaining a friendly, personable, humble, inspirational icon in the sport after nearly two decades since her first English Channel crossing, Nora Toledano Cadena is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

8. Pilar Geijo (Argentina)
Pilar Geijo has owned this decade among her female competitors on the FINA UltraMarathon Swim Series. After winning the global circuit in 2010, 2011, 2015, and 2016, she came back to regain the title in 2019. She was the only woman to finish all six professional marathon swims on the circuit this year. She was consistent and even-keeled throughout the long season from February to September. The 35-year-old from Buenos Aires finished 2nd in the 15 km Maratón Acuática Internacional Santa Fe – Coronda (Argentina) in 3 hours 26 minutes, 4th in the 15 km Maratón Acuática Internacional Ciudad de Rosario (Argentina) in 2 hours 38 minutes, 2nd in the 32 km Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean (Canada) in 8 hours 12 minutes, 3rd in the 25 km Ohrid Lake Swim Marathon (North Macedonia) in 5 hours 50 minutes, 4th in 20 km Novi (Croatia) in 4 hours 35 minutes, 4th in the 36 km Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli (Italy) in 7 hours 50 minutes. For continuing to enjoy the sport as one of its most experienced veterans and personable ambassadors, for inspiring and mentoring many swimmers of all ages and abilities through her camps, motivational talks and television appearances, for her competitive spirit and calm composure in both warm- and cold-water conditions, Pilar Geijo is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

9. Rachele Bruni (Italy)
She travels the world, representing Italy on the FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series, always a threat to win and in the lead pack. Rachele Bruni won her third career 2019 FINA Marathon Swim World Series after topping the global circuit in 2015 and 2016. Her consistency is impressive as she finished 3rd in 2017 and 2nd in 2018. During the 2019 season, she finished 3rd in Doha (Qatar), 4th in Seychelles, 2nd in Setúbal Bay (Portugal), 7th in Balaton (Hungary), 1st in lac St-Jean (Canada), 2nd in lac Mégantic (Canada), 2nd in Ohrid (North Macedonia), 3rd in Nantou (Taiwan), and 4th in Chun’An (China). In Chun’An on the last race of the circuit, she had to finish within 2 places of Ana Marcela Cunha to capture the World Series title. She finished 1.2 seconds behind her Brazilian rival. She also finished a close 3rd in the FINA World Championships 10 km race to qualify for her second Olympic Games, finished 5th in the 5 km race, and led off the Italian mixed 5 km team relay to a silver medal. For maintaining her world-class speed and stamina at the highest echelon of professional marathon swimming for another year, for representing Italy with a competitive spirit on a non-stop international schedule on 5 continents, for expertly positioning and pacing, surging and sprinting among the world’s best open water swimmers, Rachele Bruni is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

10. Sarah Thomas (USA)
It would be almost impossible, unthinkable for anyone to top what Sarah Thomas has already done in her solo marathon swimming career. But what Thomas had to overcome in order to become the first person in history to attempt – and complete – a four-way crossing of the English Channel will be remembered for, literally, centuries. Her training and crossings were that heroic. The 37-year-old’s unprecedented 134 km swim took 54 hours 10 minutes under the escort of pilot Eddie Spelling and the support of a top-notch escort team: 1st crossing from England to France in 11 hours 26 minutes + 2nd crossing back to England in 12 hours 41 minutes + 3rd crossing back to France in 12 hours 58 minutes + 4th crossing returning to England in 17 hours 5 minutes. Her gutsy swim – impressive at every level for both swimmers and non-swimmers alike – was the very embodiment of an epic, legendary effort of historical proportions. For her continued push to set the bar at unheard of levels in marathon swimming, for her pleasant, humble personality that is characterized with patience, dedication and an eloquence to explain channel swimming to the general public, and for her mind-boggling tenacity to overcome breast cancer and bouts of chemotherapy to swim further than anyone else in English Channel history, Sarah Thomas is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

11. Susan Simmons (Canada)
Since 1995, Susan Simmons has been living with Multiple Sclerosis, a central nervous system autoimmune disease. Swimming is her preferred form of exercise and she manages her condition with head-on determination. She has raised money for and awareness of this disease and mentored and inspired many to follow her shining example of positive perseverance. The 54-year-old had done numerous marathon swims in Canada, but in 2019, she focused on doing swims in her native British Columbia and completed the Great Bear Swim Expedition 4, a 2-day stage swim; an 18 km swim down Fisher Channel and across the Burke Channel and a 15 km swim from the Burke past Namu and through Fitz Hugh Sound to Kavi, a First Nations community along the Koeye River. Susan also completed an unprecedented 16 km swim across the Haro Strait from San Juan Island to Victoria on Vancouver Island. For relentlessly training and selflessly mentoring others via positive marathon swimming events, for positively dealing with a potentially debilitating disease and successfully completing a number of cold-water unassisted bioprene swims, and for being an inspirational speaker, role model and advocate in the multiple sclerosis community, Susan Simmons is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

12. Xin Xin (China)
Xin Xin pulled off the greatest upset of 2019 when she qualified first for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games marathon swim in winning the FINA World Championship 10 km race in South Korea over several more experienced and highly favored athletes. Battling back from 50th place in the early stages of the race and ending with a fast sprint finish that even surprised her, Xin became the first Chinese swimmer to win in the open water at the FINA World Championships. Xin started off as a distance freestyler in the pool, qualifying for the 2012 Olympics as a 15-year-old in the 800m race, but by 2016, she raised her profile with a 4th place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics marathon swim. With a goal just to qualify, the 22-year-old stood on top of the podium and became an inspiration to millions of Chinese open water swimmers. For making her dream of winning a gold medal come true earlier than expected to become a Chinese role model in the sport, for starting off so far behind and finishing on top in the most pressure-packed race of 2019, and for enjoying the excitement and unpredictability of open water racing with an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm, Xin Xin is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

To vote for your favorite athlete, visit www.openwaterswimming.com.

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