LONG BEACH, California, September 25. THE 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference took over Long Beach this past weekend (Sept. 21-23), and welcomed inspirational and accomplished swimmers from all around the world. The jam-packed, three-day event included everything from awards ceremonies to book signings to educational presentations. Of course, no open water event would be complete without a race, which took part on Sunday morning.
The weekend-long event kicked off on Friday evening when the attendees climbed aboard the RMS Queen Mary, one of the most famous ocean liners in the world, and were pleasantly greeted with a welcome reception and various book signings.
Saturday included a motivational chalk talk with two awards ceremonies and presentations. The World Open Water Swimming Awards — with the appropriate acronym, WOWSA — gives praise to swimmers like FINIS ambassador, Jamie Patrick. Crowned as World Open Water Man of the Year, Patrick shared his inspirational video to the crowd. Pilar Geijo was also awarded as World Open Water Woman of the Year. The second round of awards, International Marathon Hall of Fame (IMSHOF), inducted swimmers like Larisa Ilchenko, Maarten van der Weijden, and Marcos Dias, to name a few.
The day included a vast range of notable speakers. FINIS Athlete, Trent Grimsey, spoke live via Skype to tell stories of his training for his English Channel crossing and open water races. Grimsey recently broke the world record for the fastest English Channel crossing with a time of 6 hours, 55 minutes. FINIS ambassador Diana Nyad, who recently attempted the feat of swimming from Cuba to Florida, also shared her great passion for open water swimming.
Another speaker, Greta Anderson, talked to the crowd and told some unconventional stories. Anderson won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and silver in the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay in the 1948 Olympics. However, after the Games, she turned to marathon swimming and broke 18 world marathon records. Anderson was also the first person to swim the Santa Catalina Channel both ways nonstop, and was the first woman to complete five English Channel crossings. Another highlight on the speaking agenda was Craig Dietz (Photo on Right). Dietz was born without arms or legs and is a true icon, in and out of the swimming community. He does not limit himself because his disability; instead, he competes in races and participated in the Sunday swim. He completed his longest race to date and finished the 5km.
On Sunday, swimmers donned their cap and goggles to race in a distance of either 100 meters, 800 meters, 1.5 km, 5km, or 10km in Marine Stadium in Long Beach. This gorgeous venue was the setting for rowing at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The Stadium created the perfect racing atmosphere for athletes of all abilities, as it controlled many environmental barriers that tend to deter swimmers from the open waters, such as ocean swells, winds and marine life. What made this race even more special for participants was that the course was a replica of the 10km swim at the 2012 London Olympic Games. As a United States Masters Swimming sanctioned event, all proceeds were donated to benefit the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute. Many of the honored swimmers also jumped in the 70-degree water to participate.
FINIS had the honor of being invited to an event with such a broad range of athletes. FINIS President, John Mix, and Industrial Designer, Luane Rowe, attended the conference and joined in the race festivities. “The conference was filled with amazing, selfless people from around the world,” said Mix. “Their credentials seem to amass to a Mount Everest assent. Steve Munatones is a maverick for developing an event of this caliber to support the growing sport and by providing a unique outreach to local communities.”
The successful event put participants, speakers and award winners on an open water cloud nine. It is rare to have such great swimmers in one place who share a common goal of swimming in the open water. Events like this are the reason why FINIS does what they do. With a vision to motivate every person in the world to swim better, more often, and train smarter, FINIS praises the success of the Global Open Water Swimming Conference and cannot wait for the next one.
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