Willy Van Rysel
She was the first woman to receive the Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She traveled throughout Great Britain promoting long distance swimming and setting records. In 1955, she became the first woman and set a record when she swam 24K from Stavoren to Enkhuizen, set a record swimming 18K from Katwijk to Scheveningen, became the first person to swim 18K from Dungeness to Hythe, set a record of 5 hours and 15 minutes swimming 26K from Dover to Ramsgate, set two records swimming 16K in Lake Windermere from Waterhead to Lakeside first in 7 hours and 38 minutes and then again in 6 hours and 50 minutes. She also established the fastest female crossing of Falmouth Harbour in 1969 in 4 hours 24 minutes.
International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame
Her induction description includes: Willy van Rysel, may have done just as much out of the pool as in the pool for Masters Swimming in Great Britain. In addition to the more than 40+ Masters World Records, she helped bring Masters Swimming to the forefront in Great Britain.
Willy has competed all over the world, swimming in both long distance open water events and in the pool. At 92, Willy has held world records in seven age groups over a 30-year period – from 60-64 years through 90-94 years. Since 1977,Willy was in the Masters Top 10 for 20+ years, has set 42 FINAMastersWorld Records, has had 28 number 1 long course rankings and 50 number 1 short course rankings.
In 1972, Willy was the first woman to receive the prestigious Davids Wheeler Memorial Trophy, presented by the Marathon Swimming Foundation. Her citation read: "for gaining acceptance of women distance swimmers and for promoting long distance swimming over the age of 40 in England." Throughout the years, Willy has fought a vigorous and occasional solo campaign in Great Britain to offer every event in every age group in Masters Swimming. In 1987, her dream of a National Championship was realized with the inaugural GB Masters Championships in Port Talbot. Her vision has now largely materialized, although she still gets annoyed by Masters favoring the younger swimmers.
At 92, Willy retired from her swimming career but is always be remembered for the huge impact she had on Masters Swimming, on the local, national and international levels.