Poliana Okimoto is one of the living legends of open water swimming, who has always been a fan favourite. World champion and Olympic bronze medallist Brazilian star aims at achieving some more good results at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Balatonfüred.
"I didn't like open water swimming. I didn't want to do it." – who would think that these were the words of a world champion and Olympic bronze medallist superstar of…open water swimming. In fact this sport was not love at first sight for 34-year-old Poliana Okimoto.
The native Japanese, who was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, began swimming at age 2, and started training at age 7. During a competition, she got a slap in the ear that ended up hurting her eardrum, forcing her to have surgery and to suspend swimming for a while.
Her first major international event was the 2002 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m) in Moscow, where she finished 18th in the 800m freestyle. In 2005 she took part in the Travessia dos Fortes, an open water crossing event established in 2001 by the Brazilian Army in Rio de Janeiro. Okimoto won the race, and it not only boosted her confidence, but her opinion of open water swimming had changed a lot in a positive way.
A year later, at the 2006 FINA World Open Water Championships he won silver both in the 5km and 10 km event, and also finished in second place at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio. In her first Olympics, at the 2008 Beijing Games she finished seventh.
In 2009 she won the World Cup overall competition, winning 9 of 11 races that season! In addition she won the bronze medal in the 5km event of the FINA World Championships in Rome. She was considered by Época magazine one of the 100 most influential Brazilians in 2009, which was a notable result in the country of football and soap opera stars.
She won another silver at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, but at the 2012 Olympic Games she had to withdraw from the 10km race due to hypothermia.
Her most successful FINA World Championships proved to be the 2013 event in Barcelona, where she won the gold medal in the 10km, the silver in the 5km, and the bronze in the team event with Allan do Carmo and Samuel de Bona.
At the 2015 FINA World in Kazan, however, she failed to win a medal, but next year in Rio she managed to win her first ever medal at Olympics. She initially finished fourth, but the disqualification of second placed Aurélie Muller upgraded her to the bronze, making Okimoto the first Brazilian woman to win an open water swimming Olympic medal.
"When I got to finish, I was already satisfied. I had already done my utmost. I did my best test, I had nothing more to give. When it came to third place then it was exciting. I'm already a little whiny, I could not hold back the tears. I deserved it very much. I fought hard to be here, I fought a lot for this medal." (oglobo.globo.com, 08.08.2016.)
Okimoto switched to open water swimming after being influenced by her husband Ricardo Cintra, who actually became her coach as well.
"It is not easy, our lifestyle. Our workouts, our training. It is so hard." – she said to openwaterswimming.com.
The open water swimming events of the 17th FINA World Championships will be held from 15 to 21 July in Balatonfüred.
Born: Sao Paulo (Brazil), 8 March, 1983
Olympic bronze medallist (2016 Rio, 10km)
World champion (2013 Barcelona, 10km); three-time silver medallist (2006 Naples, 5 and 10km; 2013 Barcelona, 5km); two-time bronze medallist (2009 Rome, 5km; 2013 Barcelona, team event)
Two-time Pan American Games gold medallist (2007 Rio de Janeiro, 10km; 2011 Guadalajara, 10km)