Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fastest or First?

When discussing, voting and deciding the Top Ten Moments in Open Water Swimming History, we are often reminded of the great demand: Who is more deserving: the first or the fastest?




That is, is the first person who crossed the English Channel (Matthew Webb) more worthy of recognition than the fastest (Petar Stoychev)? What about the first woman? the youngest? the oldest? the first double crossing? the first triple crossing? What about a colder channel swim (e.g., Irish Channel or Cook Strait)? What about a solo swim in a rougher or longer channel (e.g., Molokai Channel)? Where does a a shark-infested crossing stand (e.g., Farallon Islands to San Francisco)? Is the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim champion, who had to compete against the world's fastest swimmers, more worthy than someone who set the record across the Strait of Gibraltar?

Members of the selection committee of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame frequently face these same issues when discussing and deciding what outstanding individuals should be nominated and inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

Because everyone is deserving of recognition, a potential list might include all the first-time English Channel swims (e.g., single-, double and triple-crossings), all the past record holders and all the current record holders (male, female, youngest, oldest).

Difficult decisions all.

Photo of Petar Stoychev by Pei Qingsheg at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim qualification race in Beijing.

1 comment:

Larry Weisenthal said...

Gertrude Ederle wasn't simply the first female to swim the English Channel.

She was the first person, of either gender, to swim the Channel freestyle. Previous swimmers were breaststrokers.

Ederle proved that freestyle could be used for "marathon" swims.

It was a truly transformative swim, and it was the swim which created the sport of open water swimming, as we now know it.

Hands down, it's the greatest moment in open water swimming history.

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA