World Masters Swimmers of the Year Featured

PHOENIX, Arizona, April 19. EARLIER this month, we announced the World Masters Swimmers of the Year that appeared in the April issue of Swimming World Magazine. Today, we feature all of the top 12 winners!

In selecting the world's best Masters swimmers for 2011, Swimming World first collected a list of all FINA-recognized Masters world records set between Nov. 1, 2010 and Oct. 31, 2011–the competitive season for 2011 as defined by FINA. For voting purposes, the magazine adopted a “last person standing” rule in which only the swimmer ending the season with a specific age division world record was credited with that standard. The rest of the process whittles down ballot-members to those with multiple world records, before putting the ballot to a vote by our expert panel.

Seven Masters swimming experts from around the globe served as our selection panel:
* Jeff Commings, USA: SwimmingWorld.TV associate producer; multiple Masters world record holder
* Verity Dobbie, GBR; Great Britain Masters Committee chair
* Rowdy Gaines, USA; Three-time Olympic gold medalist; multiple Masters world record holder
* Joachim Gutsche, GER; Editor of German Masters swimming magazine
* Alberto Montini, ITA; Multiple Masters world record holder
* Skip Thompson, USA; Former USMS Coach of the Year
* Phillip Whitten, USA; Former executive director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America; former editor-in-chief of Swimming World Magazine

Jane Asher earned her third spot on the World Masters Swimmers of the Year list, fourth if you count a runner-up spot in 2007. She last made an appearance in 2006 after earning her first berth back in 2004.

Asher had an outlandish resume for the ballot this year, ending the competitive season with 10 short course meter and eight long course meter FINA Masters World records:

SCM: 50 free (37.67), 100 free (1:24.44), 200 free (3:01.61), 400 free (6:34.92), 50 back (46.10), 100 back (1:44.88), 200 back (3:42.88), 50 fly (45.57), 100 IM (1:42.46), 400 IM (8:07.34); LCM: 100 free (1:24.66), 200 free (3:07.40), 400 free (6:57.31), 800 free (13:51.21), 100 back (1:46.11), 200 back (3:50.64) 200 IM (3:54.07), 400 IM (8:21.88)

“Because I turned 80 this year, I planned to swim all events, but later decided to leave out the 200 fly in both long and short course,” Asher said. “I might have a go at the 200 fly next year, but it will have to be at a meet where nothing else matters! It's quite hard to find long course events, when one has to get through 17 events in about five meets.”

Fifteen years removed from her last Olympic appearance in 1996, three-time Olympian and distance freestyle legend Janet Evans got back in the pool in 2011 to train for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha.

Now a mother and spokesperson for the sport of swimming, Evans established new FINA Masters world records in the women's 40-44 age group in her signature events, the 400m and 800m free, at a meet named after her — the Janet Evans Invitational — in June. Her times of 4:22.87 and 8:59.06 were well off her personal bests of 4:03.85 and 8:16.22 (which still stands as the American record), but are remarkable given her time away from the sport.

Evans made her comeback in Masters competition, but has since made a splash on the national scene, achieving her Olympic Trials qualifying marks in both the 400m and 800m distances at the USA Swimming Austin Grand Prix meet in January. Her times of 4:17.27 and 8:49.05 cleared the qualifying standards and officially punched her ticket to Omaha this summer.

During her comeback, Evans has proved that even distance swimmers can train and be successful well into their late thirties and early forties. She will certainly be one swimmer to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Ingeborg Fritze of Germany is the eldest member of this year's top 12, as the lone representative from the 90-94 age division. This is her first time making the list, either as a top 12 winner or as a runner-up.

Fritze first began swimming as a child at the age of 10 when her father taught her how to swim. Eight decades later, she is still in the water and competing on the Masters circuit. She swam competitively early on, winning a district championship at 15 and even competing at the World Youth Games back in 1941.

After retiring from the sport early on, Fritze focused on her personal life before returning to the water in her mid-80s. During her second swimming career, she has won more than 10 world championship titles and more than 20 European titles.

She made the ballot this year with five world records, all in the breaststroke events. She set the following records during the past competitive season: SCM: 50 breast (1:11.00), 100 breast (2:46.46), 200 breast (6:31.21); LCM: 50 breast (1:16.87), 100 breast (2:57.56)

It has been a longtime coming for Lynn Marshall to ascend to the top 12 in the world in Masters swimming. Her first and only previous mention as part of the award program came with a runner-up award in 2006.

Marshall, the only Canadian on the top 12 list, has an impressive competitive season in the women's 50-54 age division with world records in five short course meter and five long course meter events. She demonstrated that she isn't just a freestyler, even though five of her world records were in those events, with five global standards set in the 200 back (both SCM and LCM), 400 IM (both SCM and LCM) and the 200 SCM fly. Here is the ballot resume of world records: SCM: 400 free (4:34.81), 800 free (9:23.45), 200 back (2:25.94), 200 fly (2:28.08), 400 IM (5:14.65); LCM: 400 free (4:41.19), 800 free (9:38.04), 1500 free (18:29.28), 200 back (2:33.03), 400 IM (5:32.26).

Marshall who is the coach for Carleton Masters Swimming in Canada, has enjoyed a strong career in competitive swimming. The sport has been a lifelong passion, beginning as an age grouper and progressing through collegiate swimming until her time in Masters.

Marshall's family moved from England to Canada in 1967, and she joined the sport of swimming once she began living in Canada. She initially focused as a sprinter as a youngster, but became a distance swimmer while competing with the University of Waterloo in the 80s. Due to different eligibility rules in various countries, she wound up competing collegiately for 10 years. She swam for Waterloo, City of Manchester in England for her Ph. D., and for Universite Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium during her post-doctorate education.

Diann Uustal broke three short course world records in the women's 65-69 50m, 100m and 200m back in one day in March, and her record-setting swims throughout the rest of 2011 earned her a place among Swimming World's top Masters swimmers in the world.

“I'm honored and thrilled,” she said. “Some of the honorees are my heroes so it's special to be nominated with them, I'm grateful!”

Uustal also lowered short course records in the 50m fly and 100m IM, and a long course record in the 50m fly during the year. Though primarily a backstroker, Uustal said her goal for 2012 is to branch out and try a few new events.

“I plan to challenge myself with new events, plan, train and just keep chipping away at the times,” she said. “I want to learn to savor the moments and enjoy a little victory dance now and again. Swimming is a blessing and a gift, but it's only one part of my life, so keeping it in perspective is key.”

Uustal says that swimming has allowed her to stay healthy and even rehabilitate injuries.

“I was badly injured a few years ago, and swimming allowed me to rehabilitate and reclaim my life,” she said. “The number one goal is to keep doing what I love without aggravating the physical imbalances.”

For the sixth consecutive year, Laura Val of the United States has earned the achievement of World Masters Swimmer of the Year, and it may have been her most impressive year yet. After aging up to the women's 60-64 age bracket in 2011, Val reset nearly every record on the books, outside of the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke events. Between short course and long course events, that amounts to 29 world records.

“Since this was my first year in a new age group, challenging the records in my events was fun, and I am pleased with what I was able to accomplish,” she said. “Even though this is the sixth year in a row that I have received this honor, it's as exciting and gratifying as ever.”

Perhaps it was a sign of things to come when, in her first swim in the 60-64 age group, she knocked off six world records in one race, setting new records for each of the freestyle distances along the way in the 1500m free.

“That was a special swim, and perhaps the highlight of my swimming career,” she said of the race.

Val will have two more opportunities to add to her Masters swimming legacy this summer, when she competes in the FINA Masters World Championships in Italy and USMS Long Course Nationals in Omaha.


Tom Barton continued to set the bar in the backstroke events in 2011, eclipsing five world records in the men's 55-59 short course 100m (1:03.29) and 200m back (2:17.04), as well as the long course 50m (30.01), 100m (1:05.46) and 200m back (2:23.84). His accomplishments have earned him the honor of World Masters Swimmer of the Year.

“I'm surprised and thrilled to be included with such an august group,” he said after learning of the recognition.

On top of the five records he set in August (long course) and October (short course), Barton also established a new short course world record in the 50m back in December, which fell outside the time frame used in the balloting process. Barton says his swim in the 50m back particularly stood out, as he had just missed the record several times before.

“The one event that stood out the most was the 50m back. It took me five tries to get the world record,” he said. “You have to have a very good race technically in order to do well in the short events, and I finally put it all together in San Antonio in December.”

Underwater kicking has become an important key to success in any backstroke event, and Barton says he'll be working on that a lot in the coming months in hopes of bringing his times down even further.

Italy's Giulio Divano is another first-time entrant to the World Masters Swimmers of the Year top 12 list. As a member of the men's 80-84 age division, he earned the distinction as the oldest male on the roster this year. Divano claimed seven total world records by the end of the competitive season, with standards in two short course meter and five long course meter events.

Divano set record in the 400 free and 200 fly in short course format, while also shooting down records in the 1500 free, 50 fly, 100 fly, 200 fly and 400 IM in the long course format for the bulk of his ballot resume: SCM: 400 free (6:06.36), 200 fly (3:30.11); LCM: 1500 free (24:40.69), 50 fly (39.65), 100 fly (1:29.39), 200 fly (3:31.42), 400 IM (7:12.63).

Marcus Mattioli earned his second spot on the World Masters Swimmers of the Year roster, after first scoring the accolade in the 2006 edition. Mattioli is only the second Brazilian to ever make the list. Maria Lenk-Zigler was the first with her entry on the list in 2005. Mattioli, however, is the first Brazilian to ever make a repeat appearance on the list.

Mattioli set a trio of FINA Masters world records during the last competitive season. He took down both the short course and long course meter 200 fly marks, and shot down the 400 SCM IM time as well: SCM: 200 fly (2:12.34), 400 IM (4:48.02); LCM: 200 fly (2:13.36).

Mattioli has been on fire as a Masters swimmer after taking an 18-year break from the sport earlier in his career. During that hiatus, he put on 70 pounds and used the sport to eliminate that extra bulk on the way to a healthy lifestyle.

With so many strong freestylers in Masters swimming, Jim McConica of the United States separated himself from the pack in 2011, breaking world records in the men's 60-64 short course 200m free (2:09.50), 400m free (4:37.74), 800m free (9:32.74) and 1500m free (18:24.21), as well as the long course 800m free (9:55.28) and short course 200m back (2:29.60).

“I am extremely pleased to be selected,” he said. “The honor is magnified when I look upon the names of the other honorees. To be selected along with Janet Evans and Laura Val is really pretty special.”

Going into 2011, McConica had hoped to break all seven long distance records, which he nearly accomplished. He said his best swim of the year was actually the One Hour Postal swim, where he held 1:08s for his 100 freestyles. In keeping with the long distance theme, he hopes to complete several channel swims in 2012.

“The plan is to swim the Anacapa Channel eight times in seven days,” he said. “I hope to swim one solo crossing per day for the first six days, and on the seventh day, a double-crossing. Cold water, currents, chop, sea critters plus fatigue will be a big challenge.”

Germany's Hans Reichelt is another first-timer to the World Masters Swimmers of the Year list. Along with Ingeborg Fritze, Germany doubled its total membership on the list as the only other previous Germans to earn a spot were Karl Hauter and Christel Schulz in 2005.

However, there have been plenty of runners-up from Germany. Peter Bermel (2007), Bernd Horstmann (2007) and Christel Schulz (2010) all have been next in line for the award in previous iterations of the program.

Reichelt is a breaststroker who took down four global standards in the stroke during the last competitive season. He posted world records in the 100 and 200 short course meter events, as well as the 50 and 200 breast in long course format: SCM: 100 breast (1:26.76), 200 breast (3:15.57); LCM: 50 breast (39.57), 200 breast (3:24.08).

For the first time in his career, Steve Wood of the United States can call himself a World Masters Swimmer of the Year.

“This is something I read about everyone else doing,” he said. “I always thought that it would be great to be one of them someday, but never thought I would actually be a part of this distinguished group. I am so honored and humbled to even be considered, and even more so to be selected.”

After taking 18 months off following the birth of he and his wife's fourth child, Wood rebounded in 2011 by breaking four world records in the men's 50-54 age group. He established new world bests in the short course 50m (27.78) and 100m back (59.92), and the long course 50m (28.60) and 100m back (1:01.89).

“The one that stood out would be my short course 100m back in Orlando, at the Rowdy Gaines Classic. I had already tried twice to break the one-minute barrier; on the third and final try, I had extra determination,” he said. “I was determined not to let my new friend who I met at the meet, Jeff Commings, beat me in backstroke. He out-touched me, but I honestly don't think I could've done it without having him in the heat to race.”

Wood hopes that more consistent training in 2012 will help him break 1:00 in the long course 100m back as well.

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Video Preview of April Issue

April 2012 Issue
Contents of the April issue:

7 Lane Lines to London sponsored by Competitor by Jason Marsteller
This month's regional Olympic preview features Europe.
13 2012 Olympic Preview: Diving by Emily Sampl
Four years ago, Chinese divers captured seven out of a possible eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. The story could be much the same in London.
14 Olympic Flashback: 1960-72 by Jeff Commings with special contributions by Steve Johnson
16 Going the Distance(s) by John Lohn
China's Sun Yang, the world record holder in the men's 1500 meter freestyle, is the favorite for a gold medal in that event come London. And he also has the ability to medal in the 200 and 400 free as well.
18 Top 12 World Masters of 2011 by Jason Marsteller
19 Pool's Edge: Mindful Swimming by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen
20 Dryside Training: Hard Core! by J.R. Rosania
22 Q&A with Coach Dawn Dill by Michael J. Stott
25 How They Train: Wyatt Ubellacker by Michael J. Stott
29 Peer Coaching: Sharing the Load by Michael J. Stott
While it doesn't take a village to teach a swimmer, a little help from a friend can go a long way.
31 USSSA: Learning through Repetition by Lory Kirk
33 National Age Group Record Setter by Judy Jacob
34 American Relay by Judy Jacob
35 TYR Age Group Swimmer of the Month
36 Goldminds: The Performance Puzzle by Wayne Goldsmith
Swimming fast is like solving a puzzle. Your success in swimming is determined by how effectively you put the pieces of the “swimming performance puzzle” together.

6 A Voice for the Sport
38 Lane 9/Gutter Talk
39 For the Record
43 Calendar
46 Parting Shot
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