2006 Open Water Swimmers of the Year: Larisa Ilchenko and Thomas Lurz

By Jason Marsteller

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 27. ALL of this week, Swimming World Magazine will be unveiling our swimmers of the year to be honored in our year-ending issue published in December.

Our first award winners are Larisa Ilchenko and Thomas Lurz, who captured their respective Open Water Swimmer of the Year accolades.

Larisa Ilchenko
Holland's Edith Van Dijk, who was named Swimming World Magazine's Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year five times during her career, left a huge void when she retired last year. Enter Russia's Larisa Ilchenko, who happily took over where Van Dijk left off.

At the fourth FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships, Aug. 29-Sept. 3, in Naples, Italy, Ilchenko captured two races. The native of Volgograd got things started by winning the 5K. The two-time world champion in the event won in 1 hour, 18 minutes, 19.7 seconds.

Two days later, Ilchenko, who is coached by Vladimir Zakharov, captured her second gold medal of the meet by dominating the 10K with a time of 2:19:49.9.

Earlier in August, she picked up a bronze medal at the European Championships in Budapest, Hungary, by tying the Czech Republic's Jana Pechanova in the 5K with a time of 1:01:52.4.

Before that, she won her only stop on the FINA Marathon Open Water Swimming World Cup circuit, taking the 10K at Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in April. Her 2:10:42.06 was fast enough to collect the $10,000 first-place prize.

Other open water swimmers considered for the Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year award were Germany's Britta Kamrau-Corestein (2006 Marathon Cup champion) and Angela Maurer (25K world champion and Marathon Cup runner-up) plus the USA's Chloe Sutton (10K winner at U.S. Nationals and Pan Pacs).

Thomas Lurz
For the third straight year, Germany's Thomas Lurz is Swimming World Magazine's Male Open Water Swimmer of the Year. There's one major difference, though, this year: Lurz stands alone atop his sport after sharing honors with Grant Cleland and Brendan Capell in 2004, then tying with Chip Peterson last year.

Like Ilchenko for the women, Lurz captured the 5K and 10K at the fourth FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships, Aug. 29-Sept. 3, in Naples, Italy. Lurz, the 2005 world champion in the 5K, repeated his triumph in 1 hour, 4 minutes, 32.3 seconds—just 4-tenths ahead of Peterson.

After a day off, Lurz returned to win the 10K, an event he won two years ago. He finished in 2:10:39.4, 1.1 seconds ahead of Italy's Valerio Cleri.

Lurz also competed at one stop of the FINA Marathon Open Water Swimming World Cup. Swimming in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Lurz blitzed the 10K field with a time of 2:05:10.94, good for $10,000.

In a much shorter race, Lurz finished second in the RCP Tiburon Mile, Oct. 1, in the San Francisco Bay. What had people talking afterward, though, was the controversial finish, which looked more like a pro wrestling match. With Lurz and eventual winner Vladimir Dyatchine pushing and shoving each other, Dyatchine emerged victorious, 21:32 to 21:35.

Other swimmers vying for Male Open Water Swimmer of the Year honors were Australia's Josh Santacaterina (25K world champion) and Bulgaria's Petar Stoychev (2006 Marathon Cup champion).

Premium online subscribers can view the entire 2006 December edition of the magazine as soon as it is available later this week, as well as any other edition of the magazine back to 1960. To order a premium subscription, please click here.

Thomas Lurz earned the 2006 Open Water Swimmer of the Year award.

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