“Honoured – humbled – gobsmacked -a little surreal – fantastic for OpenWater Swimming – fantastic for Donegal” that was the immediate reaction of Anne Marie Ward, the 44 years old from Portnablagh, in Donegal, on hearing that she has been voted the 2010 World Open Water Swimmer of the Year .
Talking to SportsNewsIreland she said she had been deeply honoured even to be on the short list (of 12) in the company of so many greats in the world of open water swimming as Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha ( 5th in the Beijing Olympics and one of the medal favourites for the 2012 London games and the current FINA 10KM Marathon Swimming World Cup titleholder) , World & European record holder, Lynsey Heister of The Netherlands , Eva Fabian (World 5km titleholder) of the United States and Britain’s Jackie Cobell, the British endurance athlete who had overcome so many injuries and setbacks yet joined the exclusive English Channel’s Half Century Club recently and like Anne Marie, an amateur, without sponsorship or sports funding.
Open Water Swimming guru Steve Munatones of the United States announced the results via Twitter in the early hours of this morning with these comments :
“The North (Irish Channel” is renowned for being the toughest channel swim in the world – cold, rough, filled with jellyfish and fraught with unpredictable weather. But it was site to the tenacious efforts of one Irish women who never quit until she reached the other side.
Anne Marie Ward, an unlikely endurance heroine, joined one of the most elite and exclusive marathon swimming clubs in the world – the 11 members of the North Irish Channel club. Her never-say-never 18 hour and 59 minute effort – on her fourth attempt – courageously ended in darkness at 3:35 am.
With both the English Channel and North Channel under her belt, Anne Marie completely reversed her previously unhealthful lifestyle – an inspirational story in itself – and is now one of the world’s most accomplished cold-water channel swimmers. Starting humbly and simply with a 2-mile charity swim, Anne Marie is now deservedly recognized by her peers and honored for reaching the pinnacle of her sport.
For her amazing swim between Ireland and Scotland her admirable lifestyle turnaround and dedication to charity swims, Anne Marie Ward was selected as the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Woman Of The Year.
Among the millions of female open water swimmers around the world, the 12 nominees clearly stood out – their exploits, histories and lifestyles are all incredibly inspirational for they overcame failures, obstacles and disappointments at some point in their swimming careers. But they forged on, positively and courageously. As the award is meant to symbolize, the nominees (1) embodied the spirit of open water swimming, (2) possess the sense of adventure, tenacity and perseverance that open water swimmers are known for, and (3) most positively influenced the world of open water swimming in 2010.
The final results of the 2010 vote were as follows:
1. Anne Marie Ward, Swimmer (Ireland) 47.36% (2,558 votes)
2. Ana Marcela Cunha, Swimmer (Brazil) 28.74% (1,552 votes)
3. Linsy Heister, Swimmer (Netherlands) 10.39% (561 votes)
4. Jackie Cobell, Swimmer (Great Britain) 3.43% (185 votes)
5. Barbara Held, Swimmer (USA) 3.35% (181 votes)
6. Penny Palfrey, Swimmer (Australia) 2.24% (121 votes)
7. Angela Maurer, Swimmer (Germany) 1.72% (93 votes)
8. Eva Fabian, Swimmer (USA) 0.7% (38 votes)
9. Freda Streeter, Coach/Motivator (Great Britain) 0.65% (35 votes)
10. Diana Nyad, Swimmer (USA) 0.63% (34 votes)
11. Sue Oldham, Swimmer (Australia) 0.5% (27 votes)
12. Mighty Mermaids, Swimmers (USA) 0.3% (16 votes)
(Copyright © 2010 by Open Water Source)
A tremendous feat then and yet a very modest Anne Marie reserved most of her praise for her team preferring to extoll their virtues . She also thanked , her Family and Friends and all her supporters,(including the many SportsNewsIreland readers who voted for her ) , for their help during the years preparing for the actual swim and during the voting ) with these simple words of gratitude:
“I’d just like to thank everyone who supported me – thanks for the patience – three years of waiting for this (her North Channel swim achievement),perseverance when we went back several times.Thanks to the team who kept changing the plan until we got it right, thanks to my H.S.E work colleagues for all the support, for believing that we could do it. To the local newspapers who were great – that means a lot.”
“This award is a huge recognition worldwide of what a group of people can achieve together – it’s always about ‘enjoying it’ .Now all my team can have a year off!”
So what of the future? Does she think that Open Water Swimming in Ireland receives the recognition it deserves in the Media? You can read more of Anne Marie’s genuinely expressed views on those and other topics here on SportsNewsIreland early next week.
Tonight there will no doubt be more celebrations not only in Portnablagh and Dunfanaghy but throughout Donegal.
Meantime here in the words of her friend and Round Ireland team member Nuala Moore from Dingle is a detailed account of the achievement which has resulted in Anne Marie being No 1 in the charts!