When the world's best female open water swimmers are introduced to the Olympic crowds in Beijing, here are the bios of the stars:
• Larisa Ilchenko: 19 of Russia, has won the last five 5K world championships and the last three 10K world championships. Larisa is considered to be the fastest and best 10K swimmer in the world and is the favorite in the women’s Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. Larisa was chosen as the 2006 and 2007 World Open Water Swimmer of the Year.
• Cassandra Patten: 21 of Great Britain, won a silver medal at both the 2007 and 2008 10K world championships, in very close races with Larisa Ilchenko. Cassandra is also swimming the 800-meter freestyle in the pool in Beijing.
• Yurema Requena: 24 of Spain, qualified third at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships and has been a consistently top finisher at the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup and FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix professional circuits.
• Natalie du Toit: 24 of South Africa, qualified fourth at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships. She is the first ambutee to qualify to compete against able-bodied athletes in an Olympic finals. She won a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle at the 2003 All-Africa Games and a silver medal in the 800-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2003 Afro-Asian Games.
• Poliana Okimoto: 25 of Brazil, qualified sixth at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships and was ranked third on the 2007 FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup circuit. Poliana won 2 silver medals in the 2006 5K and 10K world championships and a silver medal in the 2007 Pan American Games 10K race.
• Keri-Anne Payne: 18 of Great Britain, qualified eighth and is also swimming the 200-meter individual medley and the 400-meter individual medley at the Beijing Olympics. In 2004, Keri-Anne won the 400-meter freestyle at the European Short-Course Championships.
• Chloe Sutton: 16 of the USA, won a bronze medal in the 2008 5K world championships, a gold medal at the 2007 London FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup and a gold medal at the 2007 Pan American Games 10K. Chloe won the second Olympic 10K qualification race in Beijing.
• Angela Maurer: 33 of Germany, won the silver medal in the 2003 10K world championships, a bronze medal in the 2001 25K world championships, a bronze medal in the 2003 25K world championships. She has also won the gold medal in the 2006 10K and 25K European championships and the 2007 FINA 10KM Marathon Swimming World Cup series. Angela is a mother of one child and came out of retirement to qualify for the Beijing Olympics (a la Dara Torres).
• Edith van Dijk: 35 of the Netherlands, has the most experience of any swimmer in the field. She won 7 gold medals in the 2000 10K world championships, 2000 25K world championships, 2002 25K world championships, 2003 25K world championships, 2003 25K world championships, 2005 10K world championships and 2005 25K world championships. She won 5 silver medals in the 1998 5K world championships, 2001 25K world championships, 2002 5K world championships, 2004 25K world championships and 2008 25K world championships. She also won 4 bronze medals at the 1998 25K world championships, 2001 10K world championships, 2003 10K world championships and 2005 5K world championships. Edith was selected as the 2005 World Open Water Swimmer of the Year. Like Dara Torres and Angela Maurer, Edith is also a mother of a young daughter and came out of retirement to qualify for the Beijing OIympics.
• Jana Pechanova: 27 of the Czech Republic, qualified fifth at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships. Jana has been a top FINA Open Water Swimming World Cup and FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix finisher for several years. She won the bronze in the 2006 5K and 10K European championships. Jana was seventh in the 2007 10K world championships and fifth in the 2007 5K world championships.
Two mothers, an undefeated Russia, a Paralympian from South Africa, a pair of Brits, a young American and several others from Brazil to Spain all with eyes on the gold...it will be a race to remember.
Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association