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Monday, December 2, 2013

When Cameras Roll, Poliana Okimoto Shines Brightly

Things come in threes it seems for Poliana Okimoto.

Not only did she win 3 medals at the 2013 FINA World Championships this summer in Barcelona to highlight her summer, but the Brazilian superstar also won the 3 professional races over an 8-day period in Hong Kong and China. Her success serves to increase the huge expectations that fall upon her slender shoulders in the 3-year run-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics in her native Brazil.

But her greatest swim this calendar year came in the showcase 10 km marathon swim at the FINA World Championships. The superstars of the sport lined up at the start and never let up until the very last stroke of the 10,000m race.

It was brutal. It was beautiful. It was exhausting to watch. It was exciting to see. It was demanding. It was dramatic.

The jockeying among the top pack never ceased as intensity reigned for nearly 2 hours in the Barcelona port. Surge and sprint, the women in the lead pack had to endure endless attacks from all the top swimmers. But with every surge came a countermove. With every sprint to the front, the pack lurked behind at every stroke. The women all went at each other like heavyweights taking punches directly to the gut and head. As their pumped wildly and their lungs screamed for air, the pain of pushing the pace was nearly unbearable as each woman in the lead pack dreamed of glory coming across the finish first.

Like musical chairs in a desperate game of survival, the movement within the lead pack in the chopper waters was unpredictable. As the crowds on the coastline went wild, 2013 proved to be Okimoto's year. Okimoto was joined with her Brazilian teammate Ana Marcela Cunha - as they have so often done together both in domestic Brazilian competitions and in international races - down the final stretch. But Okimoto kept pressing ahead faster and faster. With a tremendous kick, she touched out her rival for a 1-2 Brazilian finish.

While she just missed out on a gold medal by two-tenths of a second in the 5 km race two days earlier Okimoto, she played her cards right in winning a bronze medal in the 5 km Team Pursuit race 2 days later. But it was the 10 km race in the most exciting and closest marathon swim in history that capped off Okimoto's 2013 campaign. She won when the spotlight was brightest in a race of champions, from top to bottom. The Brazilian star swam courageously and stood proudly at the 2013 world champion.

The results show how close and how competitive these women were in one of the most competitive races, top to bottom, in FINA open water swimming history:

1. Poliana Okimoto (BRA) 1:58:19.2
2. Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) 1:58:19.5
3. Angela Maurer (GER) 1:58:20.2
4. Kalliopi Araouzou (GRE) 1:58:21.2
5. Anna Olasz (HUN) 1:58:22.4
6. Ophelie Aspord (FRA) 1:58:23.2
7. Yanqiao Fang (CHN) 1:58:23.2
8. Rebecca Mann (USA) 1:58:23.4
9. Éva Risztov (HUN) 1:58:23.4
10. Christine Jennings (USA) 1:58:23.6
11. Elizaveta Gorshkova (RUS) 1:58:24.3
12. Martina Grimaldi (ITA) 1:58:24.9
13. Yumi Kida (JPN) 1:58:25.8
14. Keri-Anne Payne (GBR) 1:58:25.8
15. Yurema Requena Juarez (ESP) 1:58:26.4
16. Svenja Theresa Zihsler (GER) 1:58:25.8
17. Erika Villaécija García (ESP) 1:58:27.8
18. Olga Beresnyeva (UKR) 1:58:27.9
19. Zsofia Balazs (CAN) 1:58:28.5
20. Melissa Gorman (AUS) 1:58:30.9
21. Marianna Lymperta (GRE) 1:58:33.0
22. Lizeth Rueda Santos (MEX) 1:58:36.6
23. Cara Baker (NZL) 1:58:38.5
24. Vicenia Navarro (VEN) 1:58:38.5
25. Celia Barrot (FRA) 1:58:41.8
26. Yu Shi (CHN) 1:58:43.8
27. Florencia Mazzei Villegas (ARG) 1:58:43.9
28. Silvie Rybářová (CZE) 1:58:55.3
29. Heidi Gan (MAS) 1:59:01.4
30. Chelsea Gubecka (AUS) 1:59:16.3
31. Rachele Bruni (ITA) 2:00:03.2
32. Paola Perez (VEN) 2:00:36.8
33. Danielle Huskisson (GBR) 2:01:31.5
34. Emma Robinson (NZL) 2:01:47.6
35. Nadine Williams (CAN) 2:01:50.4
36. Julia Lucila Arino (ARG) 2:02:37.8
37. Barbora Picková (CZE) 2:04:02.8
38. Nataly Rosalia Caldas Calle (ECU) 2:04:28.8
39. Alexandra Sokolova (RUS) 2:04:45.3
40. Valerie Gruest (GUA) 2:04:45.3
41. Angélica André (POR) 2:04:45.4
42. Laila El Basiouny (EGY) 2:04:45.4
43. Melissa Villaseñor Reyes (MEX) 2:05:21.1
44. Xeniya Romanchuk (KAZ) 2:05:21.1
45. Mahina Valdivia Dannenberg (CHI) 2:13:54.9
46. Clarice Le Roux (RSA) 2:15:35.7
47. Fiona On Yi Chan (HKG) 2:17:39.6
48. Mariya Ivanova (KAZ) 2:19:02.6
49. Hannah Hang Fung Li (HKG) 2:25:44.5
Risa Andriani Permana (INA) OTL
Poorva Kiran Shetye (IND) OTL
Michelle Weber (RSA) DNS
Karla Šitić (CRO) DNS

For her victories on the FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup, invitational races from Brazil to Hong Kong, and her 3-medal performance at the FINA World Championships, Okimoto was nominated for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.

Her nomination reads, "Over 3 tough races in 5 days against the fastest open water swimmers in the world, Poliana Okimoto proved that she is the best professional marathon swimmer in the world this summer in Barcelona. Earning a well-deserved gold medal in the showcase 10K event, Okimoto just missed out in the gold by 3 tenths of a second in the 5K and was the linchpin of Brazil’s bronze medal in the 5K Team Pursuit. Proving that size does not matter and one’s heart and mindset are ultimately the decisive factors, the slender Okimoto has established herself as the crème-de-la-crème among the world's elite women. For her courage in competition, for her dominating success at the World Championships, for helping promote the sport in unprecedented ways for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Poliana Okimoto is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Women of the Year."

The nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year are always an heroic group of individuals with exceptionally inspirational exploits, histories and lifestyles. They include:

1. Anna-Carin Nordin, The Oceans Seven First (Sweden)
2. Charlotte Brynn, Channel Swimmer and Aquatic Adventurist (New Zealand)
3. Diana Nyad, Xtreme Dreamer (U.S.A.)
4. Kimberley Chambers, Ballerina Soars in the Open Water (New Zealand)
5. Lorna Cochran, Near-nonagenarian Navigates Nirvana (South Africa)
6. Lynn Kubasek, Volunteer Extraordinaire In The Pacific (U.S.A.)
7. Martina Grimaldi, World Champion Racer (Italy)
8. Michelle Macy, Reaching the Summit of the Oceans Seven (U.S.A.)
9. Nadia Ben Bahtane, A Maternal Moroccan Miracle (Morocco)
10. Nuala Moore, Going to the Extremes (Ireland)
11. Olga Kozydub, Professional Marathon Swimming Champion (Russia)
12. Poliana Okimoto, 3-time World Championship Medalist (Brazil)
13. Sarah Thomas, Double Crosser (U.S.A.)
14. Sally Minty-Gravett, 5 Decades in the Making (Jersey)
15. Shelley Taylor-Smith, Serving with Distinction (Australia)

Online voting takes place here.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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