International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Hosts Virtual Induction Ceremony (Video)

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The International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) hosted its 2021 induction ceremony and welcomed its newest class.

The ceremony took place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yvetta Hlaváčová, Capri-Napoli (event), Gabriel Chaillou, Julian Critchlow, Stéphane Gomez, Neville Smith, Viola Valli and Ronnie Man Chiu Wong were honored in the class of 2021.

Hlaváčová set the all-time fastest female English Channel time in 2006 at 7 hours and 25 minutes 15 seconds. This broke the 28-year old record held by IMSHOF Honoree Penny Lee Dean. As of 2020 only 9 male times are faster. She completed two other crossings one also under 8 hours.Yvetta completed two epic Vlata River stage swims for charity: downstream in 2007 138.7 km in 7 consecutive days and upstream in 2008 142.4 km in 35 hours and 2 minutes in 7 consecutive days with water temperatures down to 8.3 C.She also competed successfully for 9 years in the FINA World Cup. In 25 events she stood on the podium for about one-third of the races. In the 2002 FINA World Cup 10 km in Egypt she won beating IMSHOF Honorees Britta Kamrau and Angela Maurer.

Altogether she swam marathons in 20 countries. Yvetta earned other medals: 2002 and 2004 FINA World Championships (25km Team swim) –bronze and 1991 European Championship 5km silver. She was a champion pool swimmer as well: 82 Czech titles, 9 medals in FINA Swimming World Cup (free, fly and medley in Brazil 1998) and 3 European masters records.

Gabriel Chaillou competed in 16 countries as an elite racer for 9 yea rs starting in 1996. He swam in more than 70 races and stood on the podium for more than half of his races. In 1997 he won the 88 km Hernandarias – Parana marathon in the warm river breaking the course record held by IMSHOF Honoree Greg Streppel. A few weeks later he won the 25 km Ciudad de Mar del Plata in the cold ocean (<16C) breaking the course record while beating IMSHOF Honorees Attila Molnar, Claudio Plit and Igor De Souza. He was twice bronze medalist in the FINA World Championships at 25 km in 1998 a nd 2002.

Many of his podium finishes came in the most prestigious races on the elite circuit: 1997, 2001 and 2002 in Atlantic City, USA and Ohrid in Macedonia; 1997 in Rio Corondo, Argentina; 1999, 2002 and 2004 in Lac St – Jean, Canada; 2003 and 2004 Capri – Naples, Italy; 2004 in Sabac, Serbia; and 2004 in Lac Memphremagog, Canada. Gabriel competed against the dominant swimmer of his era, IMSHOF Honoree Petar Stoychev, and record two victories against him.

In the FINA Marathon Swimming World Cup Series, he medaled six times: 2nd in 1998, 2000 and 2003 and 3rd in 1999, 2002 and 2004.

Julian Critchlow compiled the first comprehensive list of English Channel solo swimmers to ensure that there is a single reliable source of information on English Channel swims. The English Channel generates the most publicity for the sport and this database is a crucial element in giving swimmers/writers a factual basis for tens of thousands of future stories.

Stéphane Gomez competed in 20 countries as an elite racer for 11 years starting in 1999. In 87 events, in distances from 10 km to 88 km, he stood on the podium after almost half of the races. He was the silver medalist in the FINA World Championships at 25 km in 2001, the first French swimmer in history to medal at the open water world championships.

Stéphane won these prestigious races on the elite circuit: 2004 in Atlantic City, USA; 2004 in Rio Corondo, Argentina; 2004 in Rosario, Argentina; 2005 in San ta Fe, Argentina, 2006 in Hernandarias, Argentina; and 2008 in Capri – Naples, Italy.

In the FINA Marathon Swimming World Cup Series, he medaled four times: 2nd in 2004 and 2005 and 3rd in 2001 and 2006. In the FINA Grand Prix Series, he was 3rd in 2008. The dominant swimmer of his era, IMSHOF Honoree Petar Stoychev won in each of these years.

He led the French team to the FINA World Championship Team Gold at 25 km in 2000 and 2004. After retirement he took 2nd places at the World Championship Ironman 70 .3 in 2017 Chattanooga (USA) and 2019 Nice (France) at age group 40 – 44 years.

Neville Smith has been involved in marathon and open water swimming for more than 30 years as a parent, coach, administrator and official. A FINA Open Water Swimming Referee, he has served on the SSA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee and officiated at National, Continental and World Championship s and was on the start and finish pontoon at the 2008 Olympics. He is an event organizer and manager at the National Federation level (attending events in more than 10 countries).

Fondly referred to as the “grandfather” of open water swimming in South Africa, Neville has been at the forefront of the sport in his native South Africa as well as helping expansion of the discipline throughout the continent.

Viola Valli won two Majors: 2003 10 km FINA World Open Water Swimming Championship and 2001 25 km FINA World Championship. In both cases she beat IMSHOF Honorees Edith Van Dijk and Angela Maurer.

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She competed in only 5 elite marathon races in four years starting in 2000: 4 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championship and 1 World Cup – taking 1st or 2nd in all. Despite a short career, Viola is one of the most successful women in FINA Open Water World Championship history. She was the first swimmer to be crowned World Champion in the 5 km, 10 km and 25 km and won 12 World Championships medals (5 km, 10 km and 25 km – Individual and Teams).

Ronnie Man Chiu Wong has been a leader of the elite competitions for nearly three decades as a member of the FINA Technical Open Water Swim Committee (TOWSC). A member since 1992 and Chair since 2009 he took responsibility for the 10 km in the London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. He visited over 30 countries and 50 cities on FINA’s behalf. The TOWSC is responsible for rules establishment and overall direction of all the FINA marathon competitions (Olympics, World Championships, Grand Prix, World Cup, World Series and Junior Events.

He led Hong Kong to organize the Open Water World Cup series with China to form the Asia cluster from 2001 for over 15 consecutive years. This was of utmost importance prior to admitting marathon swimming into the Olympics, beca use before the Beijing Olympics, there were no elite competitions in Asia.

Ronnie represented Hong Kong in the Olympics: 1968 at age 16 (100, 200 & 400 free, 100 & 200 back and 200 IM) and 1972 (100 free, 100 fly and 20 IM). He also organized annual mass participation open water event from 2011 with 4,000 swimmers swimming across the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong in 2018 (about 2km).

Capri-Napoli started in 1954 by IMSHOF Honorees Lello Barbuto and Major General Ahmed Zorkani. The race became a Major: World Championship for the International Long Distance Swimming Federation. Until 1992, Capri – Napoli was the premier annual race in Europe.

The race restarted in 2003 under the direction of IMSHOF Honoree Luciano Cotena and has be en a key event on the FINA circuit. As of 2020, 66 Honorees have completed the course. An open race was added in 2013 to allow epic marathon swimmers such as IMSHOF Honorees Ned Denison and Anna – Cardin Nordin and relay teams to compete. The two annual race s now include about 150 swimmers from all over the world. As of 2020 swimmers have come from 57 nations from 5 continents (Europe 29, Asia 14, Americas 8, Africa 4, and Australia/New Zealand 2).