top of page

Major Championships


Until FINA’s involvement (since late 2022 World Aquatics), starting in 1986, our sport did not have a set of globally accepted World Championship and multi-event World Series Championships.  Before the 1997 there were competing Associations/Federations and individual events, some being promoted as World and International Championships and/or offering substantial prize money/media attention.

The International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF), in documenting the achievements of swimmers of all eras, wishes to establish a uniform method of categorization.  IMSHOF take a lead from Golf and Tennis – which coin the term “Majors” and add our own flavor.

Historic Majors
  1. Wrigley Ocean Marathon Race: (Catalina Channel, California, USA) 1927 

  2. Canadian National Exhibition: (Lake Ontario, Toronto, Canada) 1927-1934, 1937, 1947-1953, 1955, and 1961-1963 (1935 and 1936 were < 10k, no races 1938-1946 WW2, 1954 relay only and no races 1956-1960 – the female races 1934, 1937, 1947-1953 and 1955 were < 10 km)

  3. English Channel Race: Daily Mail 1950-1951 (1952 and 1953 were only UK). Butlins 1954-1959 and International (sponsored by His Royal Highness, Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz) 1978-1979

  4. Capri to Naples: (Italy) 1953 -1983 and 1986-1990

  5. Around Atlantic City: (New Jersey, USA) 1954 – 1964

  6. Lac St. Jean: (Quebec, Canada) 1958 -1964

  7. World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation: 1963-1997

  8. BLDSA Windermere International Championship:  1966 -1982 (every 4 years)  

  9. International Marathon Swimming Federation World Ranking: 1991 (only)

  10. Marathon Swimming World Series Championship: 1992/93, 1994/95, 1995/96 and 1996/97

  11. FINA Long Distance Swimming World Cup:  1986 (2 different races held that year GBR and EGY), 1988, 1992, 1994 and 1996 

  12. FINA Marathon Swimming World Series: 1993/94 and 1997 - 2006

  13. FINA 10 km Marathon Swimming World Cup:  2007 - 2017

  14. FINA Grand Prix Series:  2007 – 2017

  15. FINA World Open Water Swimming Championship 10 km & 25 km:  2000 - 2010 every 2 years

  16. FINA UltraMarathon Swim Series: 2018, 2019 and 2021 (2020 not held due to COVID​

  17. ​FINA World Championship 10 km:  1998, 2001 and every 2 years until 2019 and 2022 (2020 and 2021 not held due to COVID)

  18. FINA World Championship 25 km:  1991, 1994, 1998, 2001 and every 2 years until 2019 and 2022 (2020 and 2021 not held due to COVID) (renamed below)

  19. ​Olympics:  2008, 2012, 2016, 2021 > Current Major

  20. ​ FINA Marathon Swim World Series Cup:  2018, 2019, 2020 (awarded after just 1 race due to Covid), 2021 and 2022 (renamed below)

  21. World Aquatics 10 km World Championships - from 2023 > Current Major

  22. World Aquatics 10 km Open Water Swimming World Cup - from 2023 > Current Major

  1. It takes a team to produce a Major winning swimmer.  IMSHOF will name only the swimmers, but IMSHOF also remember their families, friends and team of administrators, coaches, trainers, nutritionists, therapists, etc.

  2. A Major could only be won in one or more races – that is to say, multiple swimmers in the water at the same time.   This rules out incredible solo swimming accomplishments like Captain Matthew Webb as the first to swim the English Channel or Gertrude Ederle breaking the male/female speed record for the same.   These accomplishments are recognized in many other places in the IMSHOF records.

  3. All Majors needed to have an international field of swimmers (ideally the top swimmers of the day).  Due to the cost/difficulty of international travel this did not really happen in the early days of the sport – hence no Majors are named before 1927.  In many cases an event started with a solo or several local swimmers – before becoming international.   These starting “solo” years were not considered as Majors.

  4. Ideally the individual race (or points-based series) was advertised as a World or International Championship and the winners were announced, promoted, reported as such.  In several cases, the event was not listed as a World or International Championship – but in hindsight, it filled that role.

  5. IMSHOF only lists as a Majors those races of 10 km or greater.

  6. Some organizers declared winners when no swimmer completed the course (examples; 1927 CNE. 1958 English Channel Race and modern FINA (renamed to World Aquatics in late 2022) races when conditions halt the swim after more than half-way.

  7. No junior or team events are considered.  This rules out two-person relays in Le Tuque and recent FINA (renamed to World Aquatics in late 2022) relay and team championships. These can be noted separately.

  8. Many early events featured a mix of male and female swimmers and awarded the winner based only on the finishing place.  IMSHOF lists male and female winners and notes when the overall winner was female.

  9. Some swimmers kept their amateur status for many reasons.   This was particularly prevalent in Great Britain where marathon swimmers had exceptional strong ties to local clubs and the IMSHOF Honor Organization the British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA) controlled all the key domestic swims.  To protect the status of amateur swimmers, the BLDSA generally barred professional elite racers from their events. The distinction between amateur and professional mostly vanished by the 1990s.  Where IMSHOF can determine earlier amateur winners – they will be listed (currently only English Channel races in the 1970s, FINA Long Distance Swimming Cups and Capri > Naples). It is recognized that the early decades of the sport focused on professional swimmers.

  10. There are mistakes/contradictions/gaps in the old records.  As an example, an old International Long Distance Swimming Federation handbook shows Diana Nyad (1973 and 1974) and Tina Bischoff (1977 and 1978) as female race winners in Capri to Naples. The actual results show only 1974 for Diana. Tina who raced as a professional was beaten by another professional women in 1977.  In 1978 no women finished the race.  IMSHOF have always deferred to records closest to the actual race results – as opposed to annual yearbooks or press reports.

  11. There are probably gaps in the listing of some amateur and female Major winners – which will be addressed as they are identified.

  12. There is a separate document with discussion of the detailed logic used and notes of any historically inaccurate records.  This refers to the winners of Majors who are not presently Honorees of IMSHOF only for the purposes of future checking.  It can be provided on request.

  13. FINA changed their name to World Aquatics in late 2022.  For historical reasons, FINA will still be used as the descriptor of events before the name change.


Suggested Usage in the Future


The sport history is filled with reference to “World Champions” in print media and more recently on the web.  Many swimmers have appropriately and proudly listed World Champion as part of their resume for decades.  It would not be possible to “correct/edit” all these old references – however IMSHOF would ensure that the IMSHOF.ORG website biographies do not include an abbreviated “World Champion” description or different marathon World Championship descriptions.   During the creation of this document – several old (incorrect) references have already been deleted on the IMSHOF.ORG website.


It is suggested to use this document to list Majors using this template:


Name (X Majors): 1927 Wrigley Ocean Marathon Race; years Canadian National Exhibition; years English Channel Race; years Capri to Naples; years Around Atlantic City; years Lac St. Jean;

years World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation; years BLDSA Windermere International Championship; 1991 International Marathon Swimming Federation World Ranking; years/years Marathon Swimming World Series Championship; years FINA Long Distance Swimming World Cup; years FINA Marathon Swimming World Series; years FINA 10 km Marathon Swimming World Cup; years FINA Grand Prix Series; years distance km FINA World Open Water Swimming Championship; years distance km FINA World Championship; years Olympics; years FINA Marathon Swim World Series Cup; years FINA UltraMarathon Swim Series

[additional information can be added]


Amateur:  must be referenced where professionals and amateurs swam together, and the results were combined.  Male/female does not need to be noted.

Total Majors 2023 chart.jpg
bottom of page