Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Amazing 8-Year Run in the Water

Petar Stoychev had another great year in 2008. Similar to 2007…and 2006…and 2005…and 2004…and 2003…and 2002…and 2001 when he also dominated the professional marathon swimming circuit. For 8 years, Petar has remained on top of the pro swimmer food chain…an extraordinarily remarkable run, especially when one considers how many strong swimmers have entered the sport over the last 8 years.

For his unprecedented exploits and continued engaging presence in dozens of professional swims around the world, Petar was nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

During the Olympic year when his top competition was focusing on the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, Petar forged ahead with his usual whirlwind schedule of races from Europe to Asia and from North America to South America, competing in all kinds of races and representing Bulgaria both in the pool (15:28 in the 1500-meter freestyle) and in the open water (where he placed sixth in the 10K). Petar ran away with the overall 2008 FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix title, winning six races out of nine on the pro circuit.

Petar's string of dominance has only been approached by such renowned pro swimmers such as John Kinsella (in the 1970's), Paul Asmuth (in the 1980's) and Shelley Taylor-Smith (in the 1990's). The English Channel record holder won the 57K Maraton Acuatica Rio Coronda (Argentina) Grand Prix, the 15K Maraton Acuatico International Ciudad Rosario (Argentina) Grand Prix, the 15K Maraton Patagones Viedma (Argentina) FINA Grand Prix, the 30K Ohrid Lake Swim Marathon (Macedonia) FINA Grand Prix, the 32K Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean (Canada) FINA Grand Prix, the 34K Traversée Internationale du Lac Memphrémagog (Canada) FINA Grand Prix, was second in the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup in Lac St-Jean (Canada) and was fifth in the 19K Sabac Swim Marathon (Serbia) FINA Grand Prix. No one has swum further than Petar in tough world-class races this year and his selection as the Bulgarian flag-bearer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was another well-deserved honor he received in 2008.

Pool…pro marathon races…or solo English Channel crossings, Petar is a remarkable swimmer and a fierce competitor who remains positive and philosophical when discussing the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim and the English Channel.

"I will always be the first man to complete the Channel in under 7 hours," said Stoychev as he talked about swimming the 1500-meter freestyle and the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim before the Beijing Olympics. "If I do not get a gold medal or place in the top 3 at the Olympics, then no one will remember me. In some ways, the Olympics require some luck because it is a race that happens only once every four years...but people always remember the English Channel."

"Continuing my career will depend on my results at the Olympics," continued Stoychev. "I have a 3-month-old daughter now and I must work for my family. Ultimately, I want to become a member of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and work to develop marathon swimming around the world. Back in 1993, I did my first race. I wanted to have a chance to travel all around the world and meet different people. I have been to beautiful and exotic places because of marathon swimming. When I studied geography in school, I could never imagine that I would be able to travel to places like Canada, England and Asia."

Petar’s story of his record-breaking English Channel crossing, piloted by Michael Oram, was covered worldwide. The back story is interesting and is typical of Petar’s competitive nature.

For his exploits in 2008, we honor Petar as a nominee for the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.

Photos by Pei Qingsheng.

Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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