Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year: Sharon van Rouwendaal, the Netherlands
After a somewhat lackluster 2017, Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands stormed back onto the scene in 2018. At the 2018 European Championships in Scotland, van Rouwendaal won three gold medals and one silver. There, in Loch Lomond, van Rouwendaal won the women’s 5k and 10k, and the team relay-style 5k, where the team of van Rouwendaal, Esmee Vermeulen, Pepijn Smits, and Ferry Weertman captured gold in a time of 52:35.0, just 6/10th ahead of the team from Germany. Van Rouwendaal’s only silver-medal performance came in the 25k, where she was beaten by a mere 0.1 by Arianna Bridi of Italy.
In March, van Rouwendaal won the women’s 10k at the first stop of the FINA/HOSA Marathon Swim World Series 2018 in a time of 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 24.4 seconds. The 2018 Marathon Swim World Series included eight races in different locations across the globe. Though van Rouwendaal only won in Doha, she still finished 3rd in the women’s overall standings, behind the Series champion Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil, the 2017 Swammy Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year, and first runner-up Rachele Bruni of Italy. Van Rouwendaal swam six of the eight stops on the tour, choosing not to swim the two Canadian races, which would have interfered with the European Championships. Of the five races she swam following Doha, van Rouwendaal won a silver medal in Portugal, placed 4th in China, 6th in both the Seychelles and Abu Dhabi, and 9th in Hungary.
In April, van Rouwendaal placed 2nd but did not actually win the silver medal in the women’s 10k at the 2018 Maria Lenk Trophy in Brazil, since she is Dutch and not Brazilian.
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, van Rouwendaal won the gold medal in the women’s 10k, earning the first swimming medal of the 2016 Games for the team from the Netherlands, who did not fare so well in the pool. Van Rouwendaal also won the 2016 Swammy for Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year.
- Haley Anderson (USA): Anderson won gold in the women’s 10k at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, where she fought back from behind to pass her competition and hit the pad first, successfully defending her 2014 Pan Pacs title. Anderson also competed in the 2018 Marathon Swim World Series, picking up a gold in Setabul, Portugal, in a time of 2:05:18.89, where she beat van Rouwendaal by a mere 1.3 seconds. In Hungary, Anderson won the silver medal, a mere 3/10ths behind series champ Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil. Anderson placed 9th in the Series overall standings despite only swimming in two races. Anderson is also the 2012 open water Olympic silver medalist and 2013 and 2015 world champion in the 5k.