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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tita Llorens Begur Accepts WOWSA Award

Courtesy of WOWSA, Olympic Club.

Not only did Margarita 'Tita' Llorens Begur win the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year for her valiant 37-hour attempt to swim 90 km between Ibiza and Javea in Islas Baleares, Spain.

The 49-year-old president and inspiration of the Menorca Channel Swimming Association trained with a 42 km 11 hour 54 minute swim along the Costa Brava from Roses to Port Boy and then took on her challenge.

She swam for 73 km before difficult conditions and adverse currents led her crew and her escort kayaker and husband Francisco Siscu Pons to abort her attempt.

True to her nature, the 49-year-old came back in July this year to pioneer an unprecedented 101.6 km swim between the Spanish mainland and Cala Colodar on Ibiza across the Canal de Ibiza in 36 hours 16 minutes.

Her speech - delivered in Spanish - at the WOWSA Awards gala at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California on November 10th was as follows:

¡Buenas noches a todos!

En primer lugar, me gustaría agradecer a Steven Munatones por todo el maravilloso trabajo que realiza. En España, si no eres nadador de élite, es como si no fueras nadador; no existes. Creo que gracias a los esfuerzos que realizan personas como Steven la situación ha empezado a cambiar. Aunque todavía hay mucho trabajo que hacer, especialmente en países como España, la natación en aguas abiertas va en ascenso.

Me enorgullece recibir este premio por varios motivos. Uno de ellos es que soy mujer. Otro tiene que ver con mi desarrollo como nadadora. Aunque desde niña me había metido al mar en mis visitas a la playa, no fue sino hasta los 30 años que tomé la decisión de nadar y entrenar de manera sistemática. Para hacerlo tuve que modificar mi horario laboral. Como siempre había trabajado ocho horas diarias, compaginar ambas actividades fue tremendamente duro. Desde entonces, nadie me ha regalado nada. Estos retos implican mucho esfuerzo y recursos, pero he alcanzado mis metas. Empecé con un nado de 700 m en un triatlón por equipos y ahora puedo decir con satisfacción que he completado una travesía de más de 100 km.

Durante los últimos años he estado trabajando en el proyecto “Unimos las islas”, el cual consiste en cuatro travesías. Completar dos de ellas me tomó seis años. Para recorrer los 84 km que separan a Ibiza de Mallorca tuve que realizar tres intentos: el primer año nadé 20 horas y poco más de 74 km; el segundo año nadé nueve horas y sólo 25 km —me encontré con tantas medusas al caer la noche que parecía estar en una sopa de medusas—; y, el tercer año, finalmente conseguí acabar el reto en 28 horas y 13 minutos.

La segunda travesía consiste en unir las islas españolas con la península, 90 km en línea recta. Otra vez, fueron tres intentos: el primer año nadé 45 km en 17 horas. Durante las últimas horas del nado el viento llegó a fuerza 5 e iba en aumento. Además, se acercaba la noche y nuestra seguridad no estaba garantizada, así que decidimos que la travesía se acababa ahí. El segundo intento fue el año pasado. Nadé 37 horas y recorrí más de 70 km. Me encontré con un muro de corrientes marinas que no me dejaba avanzar; durante las últimas siete horas tan solo avancé unos 10 km. Cada vez avanzaba menos, hasta nadar 400 m en 45 minutos. Este año sí terminé. Al final fueron 101.6 kilómetros en 36 horas con 16 minutos.

No sé si alguno de ustedes haya tenido que abandonar algún reto o prueba. Cada uno gestiona sus abandonos de manera diferente, pero hacerlo siempre es duro. Es duro nadar más de 20 horas y recorrer 74 km y no llegar. Es duro nadar 37 horas y quedarte a las puertas de conseguir tu sueño.

Mientras otros compañeros cumplían sus metas y nadaban canales quizá de menores distancias, pero más importantes o reconocidos, yo sufría una derrota tras otra en canales inéditos. Sí, conseguía completar nados más asequibles, de 25, 30 o 40 km, pero no conseguía mi gran sueño. A pesar de ello, insistí porque sabía que lo podía lograr.

Además de ayudarme a creer en mí misma y rodearme de grandes amigos que ahora son como familia, esta experiencia me ha servido para demostrar que los sueños se cumplen. Ahora mi mayor satisfacción es que nadadores principiantes o gente que va a España a nadar el canal de Menorca —cuya asociación presido— me diga: “Tita, conseguí terminar porque pensé en ti, en tu fuerza y empeño”. Para mí, ser una inspiración para las personas que quieren nadar en aguas abiertas es la mayor recompensa.

La mayor lección me ha dejado todo esto es que, en el ámbito que sea, la tentación de rendirse es grande. Por tanto, lo difícil y verdaderamente importante es acabar lo que hemos empezado; caer y levantarse, volver a caer y levantarse otra vez, dejar los miedos a un lado y empezar de nuevo. No hay nada más bonito que creer en uno mismo y ver que quienes te rodean creen en ti.

Mil gracias y millones de brazadas más.


The English translation is below:

Good evening, everyone!

First off, I would like to thank Steven Munatones for all the wonderful work he does. In Spain, if you're not an elite swimmer, it's as if you were not a swimmer; you do not exist. I am convinced that thanks to all the efforts people like Steven are doing this situation has started to change. Although there is still much work to do, especially in countries like Spain, open water swimming is on the rise.

I am proud to receive this award for several reasons. One of them is that I am a woman. Another has to do with my development as a swimmer. I had, of course, swam in the ocean since I was a little girl when I went to the beach. However, it was not until I was 30 years old that I decided to start swimming and training systematically. To do this I had to change my shifts at work. I’d always had a full-time job, so combining both activities was extremely hard. Since then, it has all been quite an effort. Open water swims require hard work and resources, and yet I have been able to achieve my goals. I started with a 700m swim in a team triathlon and now I can proudly say that I have completed a crossing of more than 100 km.

Over the last few years I have been training for a project called "Uniting the Islands", which consists of four swims. Completing the first two took me six years. To finish the 84-km-swim from Ibiza to Mallorca I had to make three attempts: the first year I swam more than 74 km in 20 hours; the second year I swam only 25 km in nine hours – there were so many jellyfish at nightfall that I seemed to be in a jellyfish soup; and, the third year, I finally managed to complete the challenge in 28 hours and 13 minutes.

The second crossing consists of a journey from the Spanish islands to the peninsula, 90 km in a straight line. Again, there were three attempts: the first year I swam 45 km in 17 hours. During the last hours of the swim the strength of the wind reached level 5 and was increasing. Besides, nightfall was approaching and our security was not guaranteed, so we decided to abort. The second attempt was last year. I swam for 37 hours and covered a distance of more than 70 km. I encountered a wall of marine currents that did not let me move forward; during the last seven hours of the swim I only advanced about 10 km. As time went by I advanced less and less, to the point where I only progressed 400 m in 45 minutes. This year I finally finished. In the end I swam 101.6 kilometers in 36 hours and 16 minutes.

I do not know if any of you have had to abandon a swim. Each person deals differently with failure, but doing so is always hard. It's hard to swim for more than 20 hours and cover a distance of 74 km without getting there in the end. It is hard to swim for 37 hours and not achieving your dream.

As other swimmers reached their goals and completed famous swims of perhaps smaller distances, I suffered one defeat after another in little-known waters. Sure, I managed to complete shorter swims of 25, 30 or 40 km, but I was having trouble achieving my big dream. Despite the difficulties, I insisted because I knew I was capable of doing it.

Besides boosting my self-confidence and giving me great friends who are now like family, this experience has helped me show that dreams can be fulfilled. Now my biggest satisfaction is when beginners or people who travel to Spain to swim across the Menorca Channel—I am the president of the association—tell me: “Tita, I managed to finish because I thought of you, of your strength and commitment.” For me, inspiring people who want to become open water swimmers is the greatest reward.

The most important lesson I have learned so far is that, in any difficult challenge, the temptation to surrender is always great. Therefore, the most difficult and truly important thing is to complete whatever you begin. If you fall, you get up; if you fall again, then you get up again; you put your fears aside and start over. There is nothing more beautiful than believing in yourself and realizing those around you also believe in you.

Thank you very much and let us never stop swimming.


Tita is shown above with other WOWSA Award winners including Antonio Argüelles, Jaimie Monahan, James Harrison, and Adrian Sarchet.

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