Kirsty joins world’s swimming immortals Kirsty Coventry. - (File Pic)

FORT LAUDERDALE (Swimmingworldmagazine) — There was always going to be something special about the first class of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

The year was 1965, and like any initial induction, the athletes enshrined accounted for a Who’s-Who of the sport. Just a few: Johnny Weissmuller. Dawn Fraser. Duke Kahanamoku. Robert Kiphuth. Gertrude Ederle. 

In the five-plus decades since, ISHOF has continued to celebrate the greats of aquatic sports. The yearly induction ceremony in Fort Lauderdale is a special event, one which honours individual excellence, but also recognises history and offers inspiration for the future. Really, that combination is the essence of all Halls of Fame. 

On Saturday night, ISHOF’s latest class —its 58th — was feted at the Parker Playhouse. Those in attendance applauded vociferously and rose to their feet for several standing ovations. For the first time, the event was broadcast by ESPN+, enabling fans, family, and friends to witness the event from around the world. 

By definition, any Hall of Fame class is grand. It’s a pinnacle accomplishment in a career, and enshrinement isn’t doled out like a pizza-shop coupon. ISHOF conducts an exhaustive, year-round process is utilised to select each year’s honorees. Eventually, that year’s group of legends is revealed, and they are brought to Southern Florida to receive their due — and place in aquatics history.

As it should be, there is something special about this 2023 class. The career accolades of the 13 individuals recognized would stand strong against any other year. The five swimmers totalled 51 career Olympic medals. But the class, too, has range — athletes from the artistic, Paralympic, diving, governance and water polo worlds all having reached spectacular heights. Arguments can be made that Trischa Zorn (Paralympics) and Natalia Ishchenko (artistic swimming) are the best in history from their respective domains. 

One of the highlights of the evening was the induction of Michael Phelps, the legendary 28-time Olympic medalist, whose remarkable talent pushed the boundaries of what was believed to be possible in swimming. 

Also recognised were Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, and swimmers Missy Franklin, Kosuke Kitajima, Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry, and Cesar Cielo, who together amassed an impressive 51 Olympic medals.

Coventry, who is now the Minister of Sport in Zimbabwe, was honoured following a career that yielded seven Olympic medals. Who would have thought such a run could be made by an athlete born in Zimbabwe, not exactly a hot bed for swimming. But Coventry found a way, and provided proof that success can come from any locale, as long as belief and hard work click in unison. 

During the ceremony, the achievements and impact of these individuals were celebrated, showcasing their dedication, skill, and determination. Their induction into the ISHOF is a testament to their outstanding contributions to the world of aquatics and their lasting legacy in the sport. 

Phelps, widely regarded as one of the greatest swimmers of all time, has not only achieved remarkable success in his own career but has also inspired countless others to pursue their dreams in the pool. His coach, Bob Bowman, played a crucial role in shaping Phelps’ career, guiding him to numerous victories and helping him become the most decorated Olympian in history. 

Joining Phelps and Bowman in the Hall of Fame are swimmers Missy Franklin, Kosuke Kitajima, Coventry, and Cesar Cielo. These athletes have left an indelible mark on the sport, capturing the attention of fans worldwide with their incredible performances and earning a combined total of 51 Olympic medals. 

Their achievements serve as a testament to their unwavering dedication, hard work, and talent. The International Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremony is a prestigious event that recognises the extraordinary achievements of individuals who have made a significant impact on the sport of swimming. This year’s class of inductees has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the history of aquatics, inspiring future generations of swimmers to strive for greatness.

The night of Saturday, September 30 is now part of swimming’s history. There are 13 new members of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Their stories will resonate in perpetuity, and soon have a place in the new ISHOF museum. Just like that inaugural class from 1965, these athletes will continue to have an impact on the aquatics’ world. 

The past, present, and future have again been celebrated, and will forever be intertwined. It’s what a Hall of Fame is all about.

Here is a look at the full class of inductees:

Bob Bowman (USA) / Honor Coach

Chris Carver (USA) / Honor Coach

Cesar Cielo (BRA) / Honor Swimmer

Kirsty Coventry (ZIMBABWE) / Honor Swimmer

Missy Franklin (USA) / Honor Swimmer

Natalia Ischenko (RUS) / Honor Synchronized Swimmer

Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) / Honor Swimmer

Heather Petri (USA) / Honor Water Polo Player

Michael Phelps (USA) / Honor Swimmer

Wu Minxia (CHN) / Honor Diver

Sam Ramsamy (RSA) / Honor Contributor

Stéphane Lecat (FRA) / Honor Open Water Swimmer

Trischa Zorn (USA) / Honor Paralympic Swimmer

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