From Captain Matthew Webb who first crossed the English Channel in 1875 to Lynne Cox who was the first person to swim in Antarctica, open water swimming has always attracted heroic and risk-taking adventurers. Many, but not all, of these adventurers have been inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF).
This 10-part historical series will cover open water luminaries ranging from Keo Nakama, who first crossed the Molokai Channel in Hawaii, to modern-day heroes like Shelley Taylor-Smith.
First, a brief introduction of the IMSHOF may be useful to understanding how these great open water athletes were selected.
In 1961, the IMSHOF was founded by the Professional Marathon Swimmers Association to recognize the accomplished marathon swimmers. The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida provides similar recognition to the pool swimmers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers, divers, coaches and administrators. Under the direction of Buck Dawson, the ISHOF founder and executive director, the IMSHOF began its affiliation with the ISHOF.
Currently, the IMSHOF is governed and administered by Dale Petranech, its chairman and chief historian, and an international 24-member selection committee. The selection committee includes the following individuals:
1. Shelley Taylor-Smith of Australia, the dominant female professional marathon swimmer from the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s and current Secretary General of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee.
2. Sid Cassidy, current chairman of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and former pro marathon swimmer.
3. Tim Johnson of Massachusetts, author of The History of Open Water Swimming and the world’s foremost authority on tidal influences on open water swimmers.
4. Paul Asmuth of California, the dominant professional marathon swimmer of the 1980’s.
5. Michael Read of England, 1960 Olympic Games swimmer and former holder of the title King of the Channel for his 33 successful swims of the English Channel (to date).
6. Conrad Wennerberg of Illinois, Chairman Emeritus of the IMSHOF and author of Winds, Waves and Sunburn: A Brief History of Marathon Swimming, one of the most authoritative books written on marathon swimming.
7. Steven Munatones of California, creator of World Open Water Swimming Association, multi-time USA Swimming open water coach and former professional marathon swimmer.
8. Alison Streeter of the U.K., Queen of the Channel for her 43 successful swims of the English Channel.
9. Kevin Murphy of the U.K., current King of the Channel for his 34 successful swims of the English Channel.
10. Pierre Otis of Canada, former Chairman of the Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean.
11. Dale Petranech of New Jersey, chairman of the IMSHOF and former chairman of the FINA Open Water Swimming Commission.
12. Carol Sing of California, oldest female swimmer to cross the English Channel.
13. Montserrat Tresserras of Spain, first Spaniard to swim the Straits of Gibraltar and English Channel and first female swimmer to swim the English Channel both ways (1961).
14. Irene van der Laan of the Netherlands, former English Channel double-crossing record holder and long-time professional marathon swimmer.
15. Lynn Blouin of Canada, race director of the Traversée internationale du Lac Memphrémagag and Vice President of the IMSHOF.
16. Richard Broer of the Netherlands, creator of Netherlands Open Water web (www.noww.nl) and open water swimming promoter.
17. David Clark of California, a swimmer of, and coach, escort and observer for swimmers of the Catalina Channel and English Channel.
18. Buck Dawson, the founder and Director Emeritus of ISHOF and Camp Director of Camp Ak-O-Mak and long-time supporter of open water swimming.
19. Bob Duenkel of Florida, the Curator and Assistant CEO of the ISHOF and former USA Swimming national open water team coach.
20. Silvia Dalotto of Argentina, a certified FINA Open Water official, advocate of South American open water swimmers and former top professional marathon swimmer.
21. James Doty of Massachusetts, a former professional marathon swimmer and founder of the New England Marathon Swimming Association.
22. Maurice Ferguson of the U.K., former president of the British Long Distance Swimming Association.
23. Dr. Marcella MacDonald of Connecticut, successfully completed 6 English Channel crossing including a double-crossing.
24. Dr. Osama Ahmed Momtaz of Egypt, recipient of the National Award of Excellency in Sport from the Egyptian Government, Director of the Egyptian Swimming Federation and former professional marathon swimmer.
The IMSOF not only attempts to recognize the efforts of the most accomplished swimmers who participate in competitive events, but also recognizes the efforts of solo swims, where the swimmer battles the elements and unchartered waters.
The objectives of the IMSHOF are:
1. To nominate and select outstanding marathon swimmers and officials who make the sport possible. To date over 160 individuals and organizations have been honored. Anyone may nominate a candidate for consideration by submitting an application.
2. To establish and maintain a biography on the swimmers selected as IMSHOF honorees.
3. To accept nominations and award The Irving Davids/Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award established in 1970 by the New England Marathon Swimming Association on behalf of the ISHOF which honors the contribution of individuals who make major contributions to marathon swimming.
4. To nominate, select and award a IMSHOF Certificate of Merit to swimmers and organizations who make major contributions to marathon swimming. This program was started in 1994 to recognize those who may not (yet) meet the standards for honoree status. To date, over 110 individuals and organizations have been honored. Anyone may nominate a candidate for consideration by submitting an application.
5. To accept official records for the ISHOF Henning Library and memorabilia for the ISHOF Museum.
6. To serve as resource and provide expertise to the ISHOF committees on matters related to open water swimming and marathon swimming.
7. To record marathon swims that are observed, but are not conducted under the jurisdiction of an official or sanctioning body. The role is to record, for historical purposes, the conditions and methods used by and reported by the swimmer. A certificate of the recording can be obtained upon request from the IMSHOF Secretary.
Stay tuned – for this is only part 1 of a 10-part series on the world’s greatest open water swimmers or marathon swimming endeavors.
Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association