2021 Swammy Award, Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year: Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil
The term “GOAT” is thrown around a little too often these days. Many athletes who are simply “really great” are labeled “Greatest of All Time” to the honor of their greatness, but perhaps the determinant of the label.
But with her Olympic gold medal in Tokyo in the women’s 10km race, Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha is getting very close to taking that status for women’s open water swimming.
The sport hasn’t existed at the Olympic level for long enough to have many claimants to the throne. No woman, for example, has yet won multiple Olympic gold medals in open water, and only one, Sharon von Rouwendaal, has won multiple medals of any color.
Cunha, though, is as good as any woman we’ve seen at the competitive level of open water swimming. She has 5 World Championship gold medals, including titles at both the 5km and 25km distance, and she’s now got the 10km Olympic gold medal to go with it.
I’m not sure we can yet declare a true GOAT in competitive open water swimming in the Olympic era, given how relatively-raw it is in its development, but at present, the 29-year old Brazilian seems like she’s on track to challenge for the inaugural crowning. She has won 7 of the 11 FINA World Open Water Swimmer of the Year awards ever offered; and now with her 4th Swammy award, has surpassed van Rouwendaal for the same first place ranking.
If she can continue her run into the next quad and through to Paris, the title is hers for the taking.
- Sharon von Rouwendaal, Netherlands – The other primary contender for women’s open water GOAT’ing, Sharon von Rouwendaal had a big year in 2021 as well. While she didn’t win her 2nd Olympic gold, she became the first woman in history to win two Olympic medals in open water swimming when she took silver, just .9 seconds behind Cunha. She also won the 5km and 10km titles at the European Championships in May against a pretty good field that included Hungary’s Anna Olasz, who was 4th at the Olympics, and Rachele Bruni, one of the best in the world, though she only placed 14th at the Olympics after an off swim.
- 2013 Swammy – Poliana Okimoto, Brazil
- 2014 Swammy – Sharon van Rouwendaal, Netherlands
- 2015 Swammy – Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil
- 2016 Swammy – Sharon van Rouwendaal, Netherlands
- 2017 Swammy – Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil
- 2018 Swammy – Sharon van Rouwendaal, Netherlands
- 2019 Swammy – Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil
- 2020 Swammy – Anastasia Kirpichnikova, Russia