Aussies Hackett, Jones Named World Swimmers of the Year

PHOENIX, USA, November 29. AUSTRALIANS Grant Hackett and Leisel Jones were named male and female “World Swimmer of the Year” for 2005 by Swimming World Magazine in the authoritative publication’s December issue, released today.

The Aussie sweep of World honors has happened only once before in the 26-year history of the prestigious awards. That was in 1994, when Kieren Perkins and Samantha Riley were the honorees. Coincidentally, they were world-beaters in precisely the same events: distance freestyle for the men, breaststroke for the women.

The contest for top male honors pitted Hackett, who broke Ian Thorpe’s world record in the 800-meter freestyle and was the only triple winner at the World Championships in Montreal, against the USA’s Aaron Peirsol, a double gold medalist in Montreal and the only swimmer to set two long course world records in 2005.

Michael Phelps, the World Swimmer in 2003 and 2004, finished third. The USA’s Ian Crocker, who finished fourth, was honored for the outstanding Performance of the Year – his mind-boggling world record of 50.40 seconds for the 100-meter butterfly.

Hackett’s triumph is in keeping with what has almost become a tradition of late: Australian men have dominated the World Swimmer honors, winning six of the last nine years: Michael Klim in 1997, Ian Thorpe in 1998-2000 and 2002, and Hackett this year.

Australia’s Leisel Jones, with her double triumph in Montreal, world record in the 200-meter breaststroke and near-world record in the 100 meters, was the No. 1 women’s choice over the USA’s teen phenom, Katie Hoff, also a double winner at Worlds.

In contrast to the Aussie men, the women from Down Under have won the World Swimmer awards only twice in 26 years: Samantha Riley in 1994 and Jones this year. Jones graces the cover of the December issue of Swimming World.

The honorees were selected by a panel of swimming experts from around the world. This year the panel included 21 experts from 12 countries: Australia, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the USA.

The panel also selected regional swimmers of the year as well as the top Open Water and Disabled performers.

The top five male and female vote-getters for World Swimmer of the Year:

1. Grant Hackett (AUS)
2. Aaron Peirsol (USA)
3. Michael Phelps (USA)
4. Ian Crocker (USA)
5. Roland Schoeman (RSA)

1. Leisel Jones (AUS)
2. Katie Hoff (USA)
3. Kirsty Coventry (ZIM)
4. Lisbeth Lenton (AUS)
5. Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL)

American Swimmers of the Year: Aaron Peirsol and Katie Hoff

There was a changing of the guard in American swimming as Aaron Peirsol and Katie Hoff were selected American Swimmers of the Year for the first time.

Peirsol, the undisputed king of the dorsal events since 2001, was nothing short of dazzling in 2005, setting a pair of world records and claiming a gold medal trifecta in Montreal, his wins coming in both backstrokes and the medley relay.

A southern California native and two-time Olympian, Peirsol supplied a stunning swim in April at the US World Championship Trials, blasting a world record 53.17 clocking for 100 meters. In Montreal he captured his third straight World 200 meter crown with a world record 1:54.66. Peirsol now owns the two fastest 100-meter times, as well as five of the top six. In the 200, the 22 year-old has the six fastest times ever swum and eight of the top nine.

Sixteen year-old Katie Hoff was an easy choice for top American female, despite some superb efforts by several other young women. In Montreal, the just-turned 16 year-old snared the 200-meter individual medley title in 2:10.41 – the second-fastest time in history behind China’s Wu Yanyan’s drug-tainted world mark of 2:09.72. The multi-talented Hoff also took the 400 IM in a meet record 4:36.07.

The top five male and female vote-getters for American Swimmer of the Year:

1. Aaron Peirsol (USA)
2. Michael Phelps (USA)
3. Ian Crocker (USA)
4. Brendan Hansen (USA)
5. Larsen Jensen (USA)

1. Katie Hoff (USA)
2. Jessica Hardy (USA)
3. Kate Ziegler (USA)
4. Natalie Coughlin (USA)
5. Brittany Reimer (CAN)

European Swimmers of the Year: Laszlo Cseh and Otylia Jedrzejczak

Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh found out what life was like this year without Michael Phelps, who opted out of his two best events. The 19 year-old captured gold in Montreal in the 400 individual medley in a Euro record 4:09.63, making him the second man besides Phelps to swim under 4:10.

Cseh was one of only five European men to win an individual event in Montreal but he was the only one among the five to win medals in three individual events, finishing second in the 200 IM and third in the 100 backstroke.

Poland’s Otylia Jedrzejczak had a roller-coaster year. She won gold, set a world record, found herself in the midst of a controversy then lost her younger brother, Szymon, when she lost control of her car and slammed into a tree in October. She, herself, is recovering from serious head and spinal injuries suffered in the accident.

Jedrzejczak was the only European of either sex to set a world record in 2005, as her 2:05.61 for 200-meters butterfly shaved 17-hundredths off her own global standard set in 2002. Her win, however, was not without controversy, as videos of her finish showed that she stopped the clock with a one-handed finish, a violation of FINA rules.

The top five male and female vote-getters for European Swimmer of the Year:

1. Laszlo Cseh (HUN)
2. Filippo Magnini (ITA)
3. Pawel Korzeniowski (POL)
4. Yuri Prilukov (RUS)
5. Mark Warnecke (GER) and
Aristeides Grigoriadis (GRE)

1. Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL)
2. Laure Manaudou (FRA)
3. Solenne Figues (FRA)
4. Federica Pellegrini (ITA)
5. Flavia Rigamonti (SUI)

African Swimmers of the Year: Roland Schoeman and Kirsty Coventry

One year ago, Roland Schoeman and Kirsty Coventry became Swimming World’s first-ever African Swimmers of the Year, reflecting the growing quality of the sport in Africa. In 2005, the same two athletes renewed their claims as the best swimmers on the continent. What’s more, despite some superb swimming in Africa – particularly on the men’s side – they both were unanimous first-place picks from our panel of experts.

South African Schoeman was spectacular in Montreal, winning the 50-meter butterfly in world record time (22.96) and taking the 50 free in history’s second-fastest time, and the fastest in actual competition (21.69). Poised to break the 100-meter freestyle world record, he came down with a cold and finished second in 48.28, just shy of his leadoff leg (48.17) in the winning 400 Free Relay at Athens last year.

Coventry, the pride of Zimbabwe, followed her spectacular 2004 Olympic performance, where she won a medal of each color, with an even more spectacular World Championships in ’05. Coventry won gold in both the 100 and 200-meter backstroke events, coming from behind to upset world record-holder Natalie Coughlin over 100 meters, then added silver medals in the two medleys behind the USA’s Katie Hoff.

The top five male and female vote-getters for African Swimmer of the Year:

1. Roland Schoeman (RSA)
2. Ryk Neethling (RSA)
3. Ous Mellouli (TUN)
4. Salim Iles (ALG)
5. Ahmed Hussein (EGY)

1. Kirsty Coventry (ZIM)
2. Suzann van Biljon (RSA)
3. Amanda Loots (RSA)
4. Tamaryn Laubscher (RSA)
5. MelissaCorfe (RSA)

Pacific Rim Swimmers of the Year: Grant Hackett and Leisel Jones

Of course Grant Hackett and Leisel Jones, the 2005 World Swimmers of the Year, also took top regional honors.

Hackett beat out Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima and Takeshi Matsuda for male Pacific Rim honors. Jones topped teammates Lisbeth Lenton and Jessicah Schipper as Aussies snared the top seven spots in the balloting.

The top five male and female vote-getters for Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year:

1. Grant Hackett
2. Kosuke Kitajima (JPN)
3. Takeshi Matsuda (JPN)
4. Matt Welsh (AUS)
5. Jim Piper (AUS)

1. Leisel Jones
2. Lisbeth Lenton
3. Jessicah Schipper
4. Alice Mills
5. Jade Edmistone

Open Water Swimmers of the Year: Thomas Lurz and Chip Peterson and Edith van Dijk

This year’s battle for male open water supremacy ended in a tie between German Thomas Lurz, 25, and the USA’s Chip Peterson, 17. The two duked it out in Montreal with Lurz beating Peterson by 1.6 seconds in the 5K and the teen returning the favor in the 10K with a 7.1 second victory margin.

On the women’s side it was no contest. Dutchwoman Edith van Dijk, capped a brilliant career, by winning the FINA Marathon Cup title as well as the 10K and 25K races at the World Championships.

Handicapped Swimmers of the Year: Benoit Huot and Erin Popovich

Canadian Benoit Huot, who has won 12 Paralympic medals in his career, hopes some day to reach 20. If he continues to swim the way he did in 2005, there’s no stopping him. Huot won six golds at the Disability Sport England Swimming Championships. He then went on to take a gold and a silver at the inaugural Paralympic World Cup in Manchester in events that were swum just 15 minutes apart.

After winning 10 gold medals at the last two Paralympic Games in Sydney and Athens, Erin Popovich continued her success at the US Disabled Nationals in 2005, where she won five golds and a silver. This fall she was honored as Athlete of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Photos by Stephen Thomas

Leisel Jones

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