To see all of the 2014 Swammy Award winners, presented by TYR, click here.
2014 Honoree: Sharon van Rouwendaal, Netherlands
It’s time to kick-off the 2014 Swammy Awards, where we’re proud to have the last word in annual swimming awards (subtweet: “At least we waited until all the meets were done”), and we could think of no better way to break-out the awards than with the Female Breakout Swimmer of the Year award.
In 2014, the honoree is Dutch 21-year old Sharon van Rouwendaal.
Her 2014 resume:
- 2014 European Champion – 10km open water
- 2014 European Champion – open water Team Event
- 2014 European Championships silver medal – 400 free
- 2014 European Championships silver medal – 5km open water
- 2014 World Short Course Champion – 800 free relay
- 2014 World Short Course Championships silver medal – 400 free
- 2014 World Short Course Championships bronze medal – 800 free
Van Rounwedaal’s resume wasn’t exactly barren before 2014. Back in 2011, at the Shanghai long course World Championships, she took a bronze medal in the 200 meter backstroke when she was just 17.
But to really break through, van Rouwendaal had to make a big shift in her career – she moved back to France to train with Philippe Lucas, and she submitted to shifting her career from the backstrokes to the distance freestyles.
Now, the conversation of her career has shifted from “she’s not tall enough (at 5’7″) to beat Missy Franklin in the 200 backstroke” to “could she have the potential to challenge Katie Ledecky in the distance freestyles?”
Van Rouwendaal’s breakout season happened at the perfect moment. Now she’ll have 2015 to fine tune things her new events into the World Championships, and to figure out if she can successfully compete in the pool and in the open water simultaneously at that level, and then after making some decisions can set her sights clearly on Rio – with realistically no domestic competition for spots on the Olympic team.
There are not many elite swimmers who go long course personal bests in the even-numbered years opposite the Olympics – where continental championships provide a smaller target – let alone elites who set personal bests by 6 seconds (in the 400 free) at a championship meet to win gold. That’s a confidence edge that van Rouwnedaal will have for the next two years that much of her competition will be looking for in Kazaan next year.
In no particular order
- Shen Duo, China – Duo won four gold medals at both the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, and the 2014 Asian Games, including sweeping the individual 100 and 200 meter freestyles at each. For a country that has been knocking on the door of the free relays for a decade, the 17-year old Duo could be the answer to put them over the edge for Olympic gold medals in Rio.
- Yekaterina Rudenko, Kazakhstan – This was a breakout year for the Kazakhstani federation as a whole, and Rudenko’s silver medals in the 50 (28.04) and 100 (1:00.61) meter backstrokes at the 2014 Asian Games were one of the highlights of that season. She first represented her country at the Olympics when she was just 13 years old, and all of those years of experience exploded in 2014 with her first major international medals at 20.
- Etiene Medeiros, Brazil – Out of the 23 World Record swims at the 2014 World Short Course Championships, by far the biggest shock was Medeiros’ in the 50 backstroke (25.67). She’s the front end of a new wave of women’s swimming in Brazil, where women’s swimming has historically lagged well behind men’s. The new wave of junior-level swimmers are already catching and surpassing many of their senior competitors, and Medeiros is the front end of that.