How the Marathon Swimming Greats Have Been Immortalized Around the World

Captain Matthew Webb statue. Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

How the Marathon Swimming Greats Have Been Immortalized Around the World

By Ned Denison

The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) enshrines the aquatic greats in its Fort Lauderdale Museum and its annual inductions and awards. Aquatic greats are further honored in hundreds of other discipline-specific country, school, regional and local hall of fames. At swimming pools and sports clubs you will see the history of champion coaches, swimmers, divers, water polo players and synchro swimmers. Their names, pictures, and records adorn the walls and the facilities often bear a historical name and there are many annual “named” events and meets after legendary figures.

Marathon contributors and swimmers, honored by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF), are less remembered in these pools/sports clubs but there are a few:

Photo Courtesy: Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre

  • On the walls:
    • “Path of Champions” at the Sydney Olympic Pool includes marathon swimming greats: Shelley Taylor-Smith, Melissa Cunningham and David O’Brien, OAM.
  • Facilities:
    • Des Renford, MBE Aquatic Centre (Australia)
    • Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center (New York City)
    • Gus Ryder, CM Pool (Ontario)
    • Daniel Eulogio Carpio “Carpayo” National Swimming Pool (Peru)
    • Baptista Pereira Pool (Lisbon).
    • And just for open water swimmers, two timing clocks adorn the tower at the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston, named after Jim Doty. These clocks (without second hands!) help swimmers training in the harbor to know how long they have been swimming.
  • “Named” Events:
    • Cindy Nicholas and Marilyn Bell Swim Classics (Ontario)
    • Fran Crippen Memorial (California)
    • Keo Nakama Swimming Invitational (Hawaii).

The names and deeds of IMSHOF Honorees mostly appear outside – as probably expected by the nature of open water swimming. These marathoners are often the first to complete a swim that looks impossible – and as a result they are seen more as discovers or conquerors.


Gerald Forsberg plaque. Photo Courtesy: Ned Denison

  • Statues:
    • Captain Matthew Webb (the first to swim the English Channel) unveiled in Dover in 1910
    • Jacques Amyot (the first to swim across lac St-Jean) in Roberval, Quebec
    • In the works for Maarten van der Weijden (2008 Olympic gold medalist and swam 164km recently to raise more than $5 million for a cancer charity) in Friesland, Netherlands.
  • Monuments/Plaques:
    • David Yudovin Bench (near his residence) in Cambria, California
    • Bert Thomas rock structure and plaque (the first to swim across Strait of Juan de Fuca) in Port Los Angeles
    • Washington and Commander Gerald Forsberg, OBE, Master Mariner, FNI, Royal Navy (Retired) monument (he swam across this bay 25 times) in Morecambe, England.
Marilyn Bell teaching children to swim

Marilyn Bell teaching children to swim

  • Names/Locations:
    • Cape Lynne Cox (the first to swim cape to cape) near Siberia’s Lake Baikal
    • Marilyn Bell Park (the first to swim across Lake Ontario) in Ontario
    • Cliff Lumsdon Park (he won the CNE race many times) in Toronto
    • Dr. Vicki Keith, CM Point (the first to swim 32 miles butterfly across Lake Ontario) in Toronto
    • Jim Whelan​ Boardwalk Hall (he re-established the around the city swim) in Atlantic City.
    • Then for “out of this world” achievements in the sport – Asteroid 37599 was also named after Lynne Cox!
  • Named Ferry Boats (to remind us that others “swam it”)
    • Shelley Taylor-Smith in Western Australia
    • Marilyn Bell in Toronto.

In Unexpected Places – several hundred English Channel swimmers have individual plaques adorning the buildings at Varne Ridge Caravan Park – where they all stayed.

  • Four pubs draw swimmers for names/photos covering the walls:
    • White Horse in Dover
    • Prince’s Bar in St Helier, Jersey
    • Pier 36 in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland
    • Muziekcafé Brakeboer in Stavoren, Netherlands.
  • Events:
    • Gertrude Ederle and Rose Pitonof Swims in New York
    • Jim Doty Memorial Mile Swim in Boston
    • Ted Keenan mile in Northern Ireland
    • Fran Crippen sunset mile in the USA
    • Jason Zirganos Open Water Long Distance Swimming Race in Greece.

Learn more about the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and its next event

Next Induction and Awards Ceremony
Saturday, May 7, 2022
Naples Italy

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Andy Brown
Andy Brown
3 years ago

Tom Blower (first to swim North Channel, a feat not achieved for another 23 years) has an annual swim in Donaghadee named after him and a plaque on Donaghadee sea front

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