Sarah Thomas Takes Home Two Honors in WOWSA Awards 2022

Photo Courtesy: WOWSA

Sarah Thomas Takes Home Two Honors in WOWSA Awards 2022

American Sarah Thomas was among the big winners at the WOWSA Awards 2022, announced by the organization on Tuesday.

The World Open Water Swimming Association opened balloting for six categories. Fielding 143 nominations, the committed narrowed it down to 10 finalists in each category. Via public voting in January, more than 11,000 votes were cast. The top three in each category were determined by a 75 percent weighting of WOWSA Academy votes and 25 percent from general public voters.


Photo Courtesy: WOWSA

“The WOWSA Awards honor those who embody the spirit of open water swimming and make a positive impact on the community,” reads a press release. “The 2022 winners are a testament to the sport’s commitment to adventure, tenacity, and perseverance.”

Thomas took home both Woman of the Year and Performance of the Year. The American, 40, won the Swim the Suck race, a 16-kilometer swim across the Tennessee Gorge. She earned Performance of the Year for a 70-km, two-way crossing of the North Channel between Scotland and Northern Island, which she completed in 21 hours and 48 minutes.

The runner-up for Woman of the Year was Ana Marcela Cunha. The Brazilian had an outstanding FINA World Championships in Hungary, winning the 5 km and 25km and finishing third in 10km, among other open water series medals. She was Swimming World’s 2022 Open Water Women’s Swimmer of the Year; the men’s winner, Gregorio Paltrinieri, finished third in men’s WOWSA balloting.

WOWSA Man of the Year went to Paddy Conaghan, the 81-year-old Irish swimmer who has raised more than €104,000 for a non-contiguous charity swim around his home country. That swim has included some 300 stage swims.

The United Kingdom’s Mark Omrod won the Para Performance of the Year. A triple amputee, the 39-year-old swam a kilometer in 35 minutes, 48 seconds at Plymouth, raising £600,000 for charity.

The S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge won the event of the year. The four-day stage swim in Arizona is named for each of its venues: Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake. Part of the Triple Crown of Stage Swims, the 66.9-km event is one of the longest organized stage swims in the world.

The Product or Service of the Year is the Cork Distance Week, held in Ireland. Led by International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Administrator Ned Denison and based out of Sandycove Island, the camp is an important training ground for aspiring open-water swimmers. A list of the top three finishers in each category is available here.

WOWSA Awards 2022

WOWSA Man of the Year

  • First place: Paddy Conaghan, Ireland
  • Second place: Lewis Pugh, South Africa
  • Third place: Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy

WOWSA Woman of the Year

  • First place: Sarah Thomas, United States
  • Second place: Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil
  • Third place: Barbara Hernandez Huerta, Chile

WOWSA Performance of the Year

  • First place: Sarah Thomas, U.S., Two-way North Channel crossing
  • Second place: Team Bits Missing, United Kingdom, North Channel crossing
  • Third place: Adherbal de Oliveira, Brazil, Travessia da Praia Vermelha à Barra de Guaratiba

WOWSA Para Performance of the Year

  • First place: Mark Omrod, United Kingdom
  • Second place: Theo Curin, France
  • Third place: Team Bits Missing, United Kingdom

Event of the Year

  • First place:  S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge, United States
  • Second place: Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean, Canada
  • Third place: Por Ellas, Mexico

Product or Service of the Year

  • First place: Cork Distance Week, Ireland
  • Second place: WOWSA Webinars and Education, United States
  • Third place: Morocco Swim Trek, Morocco
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