It was the most dangerous and risky open water swim in history. So many things could have gone wrong among the 121 members in the 6-day, 53-mile (86 km) relay adventure. But so many things went right instead. The Bering Strait Swim was selected as the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year. The collective efforts of the courageous group of individuals were an extraordinary example of exceptional courage, guts and belief in one another.
2013 WOWSA Open Water Swimming
Performance of the Year Nominees
- BCT Gdynia Marathon, Prizing the Pros (Poland)
- Bering Strait Swim, Crossing from Asia to America (International)
- Emily Brunemann, World Cup Winner (U.S.A.)
- Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros, Battling Butterfly From Spain to Gibraltar (Spain)
- Ka’iwi Channel Swim, Making the Most of Molokai (Hawaii)
- Mateusz Sawrymowicz, The Polish Tiburon (Poland)
- Melissa Cunningham, Every Stroke Counts (Australia)
- Mohamed Marouf, Energizing Egypt (Egypt)
- Ned Denison, 9 Swims Around The World (Ireland)
- Night Train Swimmers, California Coastal Cruising (U.S.A.)
- Richard Weinberger, Chasing Gold (Canada)
- Swim4Good, Strait of Gibraltar Charity Crossing (Mexico/U.S.A.)
- Sylvian Estadieu, Flying Frenchman (France)
- Wendy Trehiou, Two-way Toughness (Jersey)
- Women’s 10K World Championship, Pack Finishing (International)
1. BCT Gdynia Marathon, Prizing the Pros (Poland)
The history of open water swimming in Poland was renewed by the passion, energy, and vision of Tomasz Pąchalski of the BCT Gdynia Marathon. By generating corporate and local interest, Pąchalski was able to attract local and international to the BCT Gdynia Marathon in the Baltic Sea. The athletes felt at home, both on terra firma and in the water while the BCT Gdynia Marathon rolled out a red carpet for its foreign and domestic guests. Safety, competition, and hospitality were the top priorities along with the dream to re-invigorate and renew the interest throughout the Polish swimming community. Both professional swimmers and amateur athletes enjoyed a world-class event and set the tone for additional growth in future years. For their vision and for their safe execution of one of the richest open water swims in the world, the BCT Gdynia Marathon is a worthy nominee for the 2013 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
2. Bering Strait Swim - Crossing From Asia to America (International)
With the seeds planted by Lynne Cox, a team of hardened swimmers expanded upon the American's 1987 swim from Little Diomede to Big Diomede. Many of the world's best ice swimmers from 16 countries realized years of planning in swimming from Russia to the U.S.A. It was the sport's most dangerous swim with large ocean swells, heavy fog, stiff winds, relentless whitecaps, currents, and water temperatures under 5ºC (41ºF). Escorted by a large ship, everything about the Bering Strait Swim was oversized. Doubts and fears were packed away and replaced by optimism and energy. Man versus Nature was never more one-sided in a swim that was never guaranteed and always in danger of failure. For their belief in themselves, for a commitment to an adventure with life-threatening situations, for their ability to withstand 6-days of the harshest conditions possible, the Bering Strait Swim is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
3. Emily Brunemann, World Cup Winner (U.S.A.)
There are so many fast American women, it is tough to qualify for the USA national team. But when it comes to facing international competition, Emily Brunemann proved the crème-de-la-crème in 2013. From Brazil to Hong Kong, from Canada to Mexico, Brunemann was consistently competitive and won the overall title of the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup circuit. When each of the races came down to a photo finish, she proved her mettle, her talents, and her drive. But win or lose, her smile was as bright as her future. Her appreciation of her coaches and volunteers was always obvious. For her commitment to travel the world as she balances work, for her love of tough competition, for the purity of her joy in representing her country, Emily Brunemann’s 10-month odyssey on the World Cup circuit is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
4. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros, Battling Butterfly From Spain to Gibraltar (Spain)
People have swum butterfly further, people have swum butterfly in colder waters, but no one had swum butterfly across the Strait of Gibraltar before. It was a channel that remained to be covered doing double-arm butterfly, feet together, breathing forward. It was a swim that was well-promoted in advance, further increasing the pressure to succeed. But Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros prepared intelligently and steadily for the 14 km butterfly crossing, taking his time to build himself up to its extraordinary demands. The Spaniard faced media attention and rough seas in the beginning, ultimately confident in his ability to cross from Spain to Africa. For his choice of venue, for his confidence under pressure, for his 7 hour 5 minute 14 km crossing, Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros’ unprecedented butterfly crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
5. Ka'iwi Channel Swim, Making the Most of Molokai (Hawaii)
Jeff Kozlovich and Steve Haumschild, two courageous watermen from Hawaii, had seen nearly everything in their years paddling, swimming, and exploring the 9 major channels of the Hawaiian Islands. Their ocean experience and ocean-faring talents were combined with an audacious dream: to bring the 26-mile Ka'iwi (Molokai) Channel to more swimmers. Crossing the channel is tough, too demanding for everyone but the very best. They envisioned the Ka'iwi Channel Swim, a daunting 6-person relay rift with inherent risks. For their ocean knowledge and expertise, for their vision to introduce a mighty channel for more swimmers, for their safe execution of a difficult relay swim across the Molokai Channel, the Ka’iwi Channel Swim produced by Jeff Kozlovich and Steve Haumschild is a worthy nominee for the 2013 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
6. Mateusz Sawrymowicz, Unseen and Unlikely Upset in Tiburon (Poland)
The studs were out at the RCP Tiburon Mile: men with Olympic medals and world championship experience. The field was stacked with those who can handle physicality and turbulence, currents and cold water. But an unlikely pool swimmer swam with unexpectedly high navigational IQ and pulled off a stunning upset at the US$10,000 winner-take-all race in San Francisco. Mild-mannered Mateusz Sawrymowicz, who moved from his native Poland to California to follow his dreams, started off fast and churned through the most competitive mile race in the world: never fearless, never hesitant, always calculating and shifting strategies. For his willingness to move halfway around the world, for his competitive spirit in challenging the world’s best, for his generous and humble spirit, Mateusz Sawrymowicz’s victory in the San Francisco Bay is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
7. Melissa Cunningham, Every Stroke Counts (Australia)
The courageous former world champion appreciates every stroke she takes, especially after she was diagnosed and survived breast cancer this year. Her smile remains as wide as ever despite thinning hair; her optimism is contagious despite the scare of a lifetime. She coaches; she inspires. She teaches; she motivates. Melissa Cunningham, an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Class of 2013, is the event organizer for the Every Stroke Counts program. For organizing events and inspiring people despite her illness on behalf of the McGrath Foundation, for being an ambassador while she was being treated for Stage 3 breast cancer, for carrying on her competitive spirit to benefit others in the water throughout the year, Melissa Cunningham’s efforts at Every Stroke Counts are a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
8. Mohamed Marouf, Energizing Egypt (Egypt)
From the famous English Channel races in the 1950’s to the height of Abou-Heif’s career, open water swimming was well-known in Egypt. With a few exceptions, open water swimming fell off the radar, not only in Egypt, but also throughout much of the Middle East. Marouf, through his force of powerful personality, online social media networking, and his experience as a coach and pro swimmer, has re-energized the information flow and interest in the sport in Egypt. The catalyst of open water’s ongoing momentum, excitement, and participants in Egypt and throughout the Arab world is Coach Marouf. For his year-round promotion and education, for his delivery of the sport to the young swimmers and a new generation of coaches, for his focus on stimulating the love of the open water for recreation and competition, the work of Mohamed Marouf is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
9. Ned Denison, 9 Swims In A Year (Ireland)
The man from Cork takes to the open water like a long-lost merman. Not only is Ireland's Ned Denison managing, promoting, and coaching the toughest 7 days of open water training with his Cork Distance Week, but he also attacks waters around the world year-round. Denison completed 9 marathon swims in fresh water and salt while he lives and breathes open water swimming like few others. His smile is infectious, his leadership is efficacious, his efforts are sincere. The Pied Piper of the Open Water leaves his footprint in nearly every continent around the world, as friends surround him like the ever-present lanolin around his neck. For his heartfelt joy in swimming in every temperature and condition, for his unselfish attitude in bringing others to the sport, and for his 9 swims in oceans, lakes, seas and bays around the world, Ned Denison's year-round efforts are a worthy nominee for the 2013 WOWSA Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
10. Night Train Swimmers, California Coastal Cruising (U.S.A.)
17 times in and out of the water over 4 days, each of the Night Train Swimmers smiled in the face of gale force winds and small craft advisories. In one of the most audacious relays in history, the pod from San Francisco was courageous in setting the world record for distance covered in the ocean: 228 miles down the coast of California. Captained by Vito Bialla with Hal McCormick and Patrick Horn, Phil Cutti, David Holscher, Zach Jirkovsky, Luane Rowe, Blair Cannon, and Grace van der Byl spent over 100 hours swimming non-stop in a charity swim on behalf of the Navy SEAL Foundation. Like the war heroes they were helping, the swimmers were unselfishly dedicated, and worked seamlessly as one. For flawless execution of their plans, for their calm and measured reaction when Mother Nature tossed them around in a fury, for their commitment to help others, the 228-mile relay by the Night Train Swimmers is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
11. Richard Weinberger, Chasing Gold (Canada)
He unexpectedly made a fatal error during the showcase 10 km marathon race at the 2013 FINA World Championships. Richard Weinberger was fit and ready to climb on the podium, but he inadvertently missed a turn buoy and had to swim in reverse back around the buoy in order to stay in the race. His mistake put him 70 meters back behind the world’s best swimmers. He could have quit; he could have just cruised in. But not the Canadian. His competitive zeal and pride kicked in big-time. Slowly but surely, he swam back into medal position against all odds. In the end, he just missed a medal, but he made many fans and never gave up during that race. For his sense of purpose, for his spirit of competitiveness, for his valiant strategic comeback at the World Championships in Barcelona, Richard Weinberger’s race is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
12. Swim4Good, Strait of Gibraltar Charity Crossing (Mexico/U.S.A.)
Swim4Good accomplished exactly what its name states. Mauricio Prieto, Susan Moody, and Emily Kunze swam across the Strait of Gibraltar, a feat in itself, but their true goal was to create a social platform to take on aquatic challenges while raising money and social consciousness for good. The aquapreneurial trio achieved their goal by establishing partnerships with a number of world-class non-swimming athletes to benefit their cause of bringing books to children in the developing world using mobile technology. For raising $107,461 from 226 donors around the world on behalf of Worldreader, for crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to draw attention to those less fortunate than them, for their continued efforts to build upon their initial success, the crossing of Mauricio Prieto, Susan Moody, and Emily Kunze is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
13. Sylvain Estadieu, The Flying Frenchman (France)
He publicly stated his goal; he trained diligently and then stood confidently on the shores of Dover after long delays. Sylvain Estadieu was ready to tackle one of the most difficult feats in the ocean: 21 miles of uninterrupted butterfly, the most macho and most demanding of all swimming strokes. Double-arm forward, breathing straight ahead, legs together. One false stroke, one splitting of the feet, one breaststroke pull, one roll-over on his back, and his dream to become the third person in history to swim from England to France would be over. But he swam strongly and uninterrupted. For 16 hours 42 minutes of muscle-wrenching butterfly, for his courage in announcing his attempt and executing upon his plan, for his personable nature enhanced by his enjoyable, lighthearted approach to the sport, Sylvain Estadieu is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
14. Wendy Trehiou, Two-way Toughness (Jersey)
Greatness in the English Channel is not reserved for the fastest or mightiest. In the Channel, greatest is destined for anyone of any age or ability who trains and struggles to get from one shore to the other. Stamina and strength; courage and commitment; tenacity and toughness: these are the traits and characteristics that are demonstrated by English Channel swimmers. Wendy Trehiou showcased her strengths in a two-way 39 hour 9 minute effort that drew raves from the channel swimming community, especially since Trehiou is a cancer survivor and she had to abort a two-way attempt only weeks before. For her love of life, her commitment to finishing a most difficult challenge, for instilling inspiration throughout her native Jersey and far beyond, the two-way channel swim of Wendy Trehiou is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
15. Women’s 10K World Championship, Pack Finishing (International)
9 seconds separated the top 19 swimmers in the women’s 10 km marathon swimming race at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. And many of the rest of the 51-swimmer field were not that far behind. The pace was blistering; the competition was fierce; it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting races in the annals of elite open water swimming. For nearly 2 hours, the world’s fastest open water swimmers gave it everything they had...only to follow in the wake of Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha. For participating in a race that could not be realistically closer, for representing themselves, their countries, and their sport courageously well, the collective effort of the women in the World's 10K World Championship race is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.
Vote in All Four Categories
The World Open Water Swimming Association is pleased to present the 2013 WOWSA Award Nominees.
The nominees are presented in the following four categories:
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