German Open Water Superstar Thomas Lurz Announces Retirement

On the eve of the Open Water Swimming Grand Prix in Cozumel, Mexico, the most-decorated German distance swimmer of all time has decided to call it quits; Thomas Lurz of SV Würzburg 05 sports club told the Main Post he would be stepping away from the sport. Lurz was named the FINA Open Water Swimmer of the Year in both 2013 and 2011 and the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) Swimmer of the Year in 2011, 2009, 2006, and 2005.

In December, Lurz said that he would finish his career in the Rio Olympic Games, but in his words, that timetable got moved up after he “”realized that (he) can no longer meet (his) high expectations.”

Even before his retirement, Lurz’s important to the sport was recognized, as British Swimming named him as part of a four-member panel tasked after the 2012 Summer Olympic Games with strategizing to improve swimming in the country.

The 35-year-old Lurz is the godfather of German distance swimming. As one of the best, most prominent, and most influential open water swimmers of his generation, Lurz wound up missing out on an Olympic gold in two tries. Still, he has a long list of medals to his name, including 13 total medals at the FINA World Aquatics Championships, which is more than anybody else in the sport’s history, male or female. He’s also the only swimmer to win gold in all four of the current distances offered at the event: the 5K, 10K, 25K, and 5KM team event.

Editor’s note: Italian Viola Valli also won gold in the 5k, 10k, and 25k women’s events at a time when no team event was offered. She likely would have won a 5k team goal with Luca Baldini and Marco Formentini in the early 2000’s were one offered.

Olympic Games

  • London 2012 – silver in the 10K
  • Beijing 2008 – bronze in the 10K

FINA World Championships

  • Barcelona 2013 – gold in 25K and team 5K, silver in 10K, bronze in 5K
  • Shanghai 2011 – gold in 5K, silver in 10K, bronze in team 5K
  • Rome 2009 – gold in 5K, gold in 10K
  • Melbourne 2007 – gold in 5K, silver in 10K
  • Montréal 2005 – gold in 5K, silver in 10K

World Open Water Championships

  • Roberval 2010 – gold in 5K
  • Seville 2008 – gold in 5K, bronze in 10K
  • Naples 2006 – gold in 5K and 10K
  • Dubai 2004 – gold in 10K
  • Sharm el-Sheikh 2002 – bronze in 5K

European Championships

  • Berlin 2014 – silver in 10K, bronze in 5K, bronze in team 5K
  • Budapest 2010 – gold in 10K
  • Dubrovnik 2008 – gold in 10K, bronze in 5K, bronze in team 5K
  • Budapest 2006 – gold in 5K and 10K
  • Berlin 2002 – silver in 5K

World University Games

  • Izmir2005 – silver in 1500m free

Most recently, Lurz was named LEN Open Water Swimmer of the Year for 2014, and won the Swammy award as the 2013 Open Water Swimmer of the Year.

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6 years ago

I know one commenter that will be sad!

John Dussliere
6 years ago

Thomas will be missed on many levels except one!!
Thomas spent his career not only winning medals around the globe, he mentored the worlds open water swimmers along the way.

How will this be welcome? The only way this is welcome is that now one of the 3 medals is available Rio!!

Thank you Thomas for everything you have contributed to Olympic Sport!!

6 years ago

I don’t think it would be going too far to give Lurz the title “GOAT Open Water Swimmer”!

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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