FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, February 4. THE International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) today announced the recipients of the inaugural “Esther” Award, which will recognize outstanding achievements in the film and entertainment industries that promote a positive image of swimming as a key to fun, fitness, good health, a better quality of life and an essential water safety and lifesaving skill.
“We are extremely proud that Ms. Esther Williams has lent her famous name to this award,” said Bruce Wigo, President of ISHOF. “As one of America's iconic film stars, she did more through her films to promote swimming than anyone else in history.”
“I am truly honored and humbled to have my name associated with this new award,” said Esther. “I have been swimming my entire life. It's the most enjoyable activity there is and it is the only sport one can do from their first bath to their last. I believe everyone should learn to swim and this award will be presented to recognize films and individuals in the entertainment industry who help promote this ideal.”
Esther Williams was a national swimming champion in 1939. Unable to compete in the 1940 Olympics because of WWII, she turned professional and swam alongside Olympic Champion and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller in the Billy Rose Aquacade in San Francisco. The Aquacade brought her to the attention of MGM talent scouts and the rest is history. She starred in 27 major Hollywood films and as a businesswoman organized traveling water shows and still runs a swimwear company that bears her name. Esther was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1966 and received ISHOF's Gold Medallion Award in 2006.
The inaugural Esther Awards will be presented to two films, from a category intended to revive interest in historically significant films: “Enter the Chinese Water Dragon “（水上春秋）and “The Diving Girls” (女跳水队员). These two movies were part of the national inspiration for a young nation and of a growing sense of being part of the world Olympic family. Since their premiers in 1959 and in 1964, respectively, these films have inspired countless numbers of Chinese youngsters to dive into the pool, to train hard, to aim high and to compete in international competitions.
Inspired by the true stories of China's world record setting swimmer Mr. Mu Xiangxiong and their up-and-coming world-class divers, these stories present a remarkably different image than we have in the west about life in China under Chairman Mao. Looking back to the humble beginnings of that journey, retold in these movies, viewers can still find the collective artistic work by the films' directors, the leading stars in both movies and the film crews, just as fresh and inspiring as millions of movie goers did then. These two movies sowed the seeds for dreams of diving off spring-boards and starting blocks in the hearts of young Chinese, who took to the water. Today, China is competing in all kinds of sports, and her swimmers and divers, synchronized swimmers, water polo and other aquatic event participants are seeing their childhood dreams come true. The Esther Williams Award, recognizing the work of the production teams and their stars, provides a unique opportunity for new generations throughout the world to revisit those moments that blur the line of reality and fiction; of dreams in the making and dreams that have come true.
ISHOF will present the Esthers for these films during the 2013 ISHOF Honors Weekend, May 9 — 12, at the Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale. ISHOF plans to present future Esther Awards at an annual Aquatic Film Festival beginning in 2014, at a date and location yet to be determined.
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