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Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Modern-Day Greek Hero: Spiros Yianniotis

Michael Koumbouzis and Dr. Lisa Stansbie, co-founders of The Big Blue Swim provided this article on 3-time Olympian Spiros Yianniotis of Greece.

Spiros Yianniotis is a giant in the open water swimming world and a unique swimmer who didn’t start serious swimming until he was 14 years old. Known for his openness and down-to-earth personality, this is the story of a determined swimmer and Greek athlete.

The first time the Liverpool, England-born Yianniotis went in the pool he was 5 years old in his native Corfu Town swimming pool spurred on by his English mother who had also been a swimmer. But Corfu Town pool was not exactly geared to accommodating future internationals as it did not even have a roof.

With a lack of training space and what he described as a disconnection with the water, it wasn’t until he was a teenager that he started training. His late start made his meteoric rise in the open water world even more remarkable. Being a late re-starter, he had no race experience or times that qualified for competitions. He was a very raw. His break came one day during a training session when he swam a qualifying time for the 1500m. This enabled him to enter competitions with his 400m and 1500m swims, kick-starting his career.

It wasn’t until he was 17 years old that he decided that he could do better and train smarter with professional swimmers. He decided to leave Corfu and join the Thessaloniki national squad in northern Greece. He eventually moved to Athens where he still trains at the Papastratio swimming pool. He enjoyed various successes in the following years including a fifth-place finish in the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 1500m, a milestone in his career. But apart from being elated, it also made him question his future and he began to consider retiring as a 24-year-old.

However the idea of competing in open water events was suggested with his coach Nikos Yemelos. Yianniotis, being so attached to Corfu and the sea, was immediately intrigued and motivated to train again. He was encouraged further because open water swimming had just become an Olympic event. He mentioned this to his mother who in a very direct Greek manner said, “Let me tell you something, stop deliberating about it and just do it." So he did.

He went with his coach to the 2007 FINA World Championships in Melbourne, Australia. This was his first dive into open water swimming. He finished third in the 5 km event. He was a true outsider with no previous experience whatsoever. “We were thinking tactics as we were going along”, said Yemelos of the race.

He decided to make the 10 km his event, but it was not all easy sailing. His transition to open water swimming presented a major learning curve for him. At the beginning, he struggled to come to terms with the physical aspect of the swims, such as the tussles that come with the sport, “I used to get knocked about a lot, and still do but I have learnt to overcome it...you need to get over it physically as well as psychologically. You also need to be very patient, wait for your moment, and be tactically clever in open water swimming.”

Yianniotis went on to finish second in the 5 km event at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome and won gold in the 2008 European Championships again in the 5 km event. He won gold at both the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai and 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona in the 10 km event. He also won three individual medals at the 2005 Mediterranean Games and represented Greece at four consecutive Summer Olympics: 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Yianniotis, like most accomplished international elite athletes, has had many triumphs, but also knows the bitter taste of defeat. The 2012 London Olympics was an example. His preparations for this race was superhuman. He explained, "Only God and my soul know the gruelling training, pain, fatigue, and mental exhaustion that I have gone through in order to get ready for the Olympics. This is what sport is about and I am not complaining."

During the interview after his dreams for an Olympic medal were dashed when he finished fourth in the 10 km, he became very emotional and even apologized to the Greeks for not ascending to the podium. But he also promised that he will be back with even more resolve. He has great determination to come back stronger and it is testament to his down-to-earth realistic and gentle persona that makes him very approachable. “I have vowed to myself that if during my career, I suffer a great disappointment or defeat, my goal will be to become better and stronger, come back, win and then retire."

The Hellenic Marathon Swimming Association president Polychronis Vasileiou invited Yianniotis to attend some swimming adventures this summer. "Because Spiros spends most of the summer in the adjacent island of Corfu, we thought it might be an ideal way for Spiros to relax from his no doubt gruelling training schedule," explains Dr. Lisa Stansbie. "Additionally, he can experience the way we have devised these dedicated swimming holidays around that beautiful stretch of the Ionian Sea."

The Big Blue Swim asked Yianniotis a few questions about his life and career:

The Big Blue Swim: Congratulations on winning the 2013 FINA World Championships 10 km marathon swim in Barcelona, what are your goals and key races for 2014?
Spiros Yianniotis: Thank you. It was one of my best wins in my swimming career. In 2014, my goal is the European Championships in Berlin in August. I want to stay in the top world position in the 10 km. That's going to be a good psychological boost for next year and the qualification for the 2016 Olympics.

The Big Blue Swim: Do you employ different tactics when swimming the 10 km compared to the 25 km?
Spiros Yianniotis: Yes, the tactics between those two races are quite different. The first time I swam the 25 km distance was in Barcelona and was a totally different swim to the 10 km. The most important element for me was the energy/endurance and how to handle this. Due to the length, it is very easy to lose control and focus during the race. I believe that a big factor for me is psychological side of the race. You need to be patient and wait for your moment.

The Big Blue Swim: Do you perform better in colder water temperatures and have you found an ideal temperature?
Spiros Yianniotis: The ideal conditions for me are 22-25ºC which is quite warm, but that is where I perform better. I find the cold water a little hard for me to swim in. But I'm willing to train and get used to colder swims. Regarding Berlin, I know the water temperature will be lower so I will need to acclimatize.

The Big Blue Swim: How did you start in open water swimming?
Spiros Yianniotis: I started in 2007 and my first swim was the 5 km in Melbourne, Australia at the FINA World Championships. It was a very nice experience for me. When I find myself in Liverpool I only swim in the swimming pool, as I believe the sea water is freezing cold.

The Big Blue Swim: In a typical training week, what is your daily training regime?
Spiros Yianniotis: It depends on the time of the year and on other factors too. But during a typical day, I will do double training. This is approximately 15-17 km daily, while on a Saturday single training with half that distance. I have the Sunday off.

The Big Blue Swim: Is it difficult to get funding in Greece as an elite open water swimmer at the moment? Who are you main sponsors?
Spiros Yianniotis: It is very hard indeed to get funding in Greece just now. As you know we are undergoing a transitional period and it is very hard to find someone who is willing sponsor me. But I live and get on with it and try to do my best with the current situation.

The Big Blue Swim: Where is your favourite place in Greece where you can relax and swim?
Spiros Yianniotis: For me, is my home town of Corfu island. In the summer, it's absolutely beautiful to swim in the sea.

The Big Blue Swim: On a personal note, what do your tattoos represent?
Spiros Yianniotis: One of my tattoos is all about swimming endurance and is based on the Liverpool Football Club - who I support - motto but reads “You will never swim alone”. The other one is the Olympic rings.

Content translated from Greek to English by Michael Koumbouzis, co-founder of The Big Blue Swim.

Photos courtesy of Polychronis Vasileiou taken of Spyros Gianniotis at The Hellenic Marathon Swimming Association Winter race in February in Katerini near Thessoloniki, Northern Greece, the oldest winter swimming race in Greece. The first event took place in 2004. Over the last 2 years it has been organised by The Hellenic Marathon Swimming Association with 2 races: 300m and 1000m. The sea temperature for the 2014 event was 12.6ºC where Yianniotis took part non-competitively in the 1000m event.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

Swim Across the English Channel...


Who else is looking for a qualified open water swimming coach to help them swim across the English Channel?

Chloë McCardel is a 6-time English Channel Swimmer who inspires and instructs. Access featured content by Chloë in this month's issue of the Open Water Swimming Magazine. Published monthly by WOWSA, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a digital, interactive publication made available exclusively to WOWSA members. See what you've been missing! Become a WOWSA member today!

Open Water Swimming Magazine

Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...

The Other Shore

The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac

An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:

The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program