2023 Athlete of the Year Awards: Ferry Weertman on the “great honour” of being a two-time winner

Credit to: European Aquatics/Istvan Derencsenyi

The 2023 Athlete of the Year Awards will celebrate male and female competitors from Swimming, Diving, Artistic Swimming, Open Water and High Diving.

Voting closes on March 3rd (11:59pm CET) with the winners set to be revealed between March 25th and 3rd April.

Link to vote here.

Ahead of the 2023 awards, European Aquatics spoke to previous winners, Rebecca Adlington and Ferry Weertman.

Read our interview with Rebecca here.

Ferry Weertman became the first Dutchman to win a World Championship medal in the 10k open water when he clinched silver at Kazan 2015.

With that, Ferry secured a place in the marathon swimming at the 2016 Olympics in Rio while he also claimed a second silver with Marcel Schouten and Sharon van Rouwendaal in the team event.

His achievements were recognised when he was named best male open water swimmer at the 2015 LEN Awards.

The following year at Rio 2016, Ferry claimed the ultimate accolade when he edged out Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece in a furious sprint to the finish at Fort Copacabana.

Ferry became the second Dutchman to win Olympic gold, eight years after Maarten van der Weijden claimed the title at Beijing 2008 when the marathon swimming was first added to the Games programme.

He led home an all-European podium ahead of Gianniotis and Marc-Antoine Olivier of France, the day after Netherlands teammate Van Rouwendaal claimed the women’s crown.

Ferry was subsequently named best male open water swimmer at the 2016 LEN Awards for the second straight year.

Recalling how he learned of his award, Ferry told European Aquatics: “I remember the email notification that said I’d won.

“Obviously it’s a really big honour knowing you’re named the best open water swimmer of your continent.

“Maybe you’ve done a few good performances and I think it sets you apart from other people who won an event , it says you’ve been the very best this year, just a crown on your work I think.”

The accolade also had greater significance given it was voted for by people within the swimming community who have an active knowledge of the magnitude of his achievement.

“It definitely does,” said Ferry. “It’s your predecessors and the people that work in your sport are saying from all the people we have watched racing this year, you’ve done the very best.

“That is definitely a great honour.

“It’s a crown on your work: you’ve worked hard all year and you’ve won race x and y but saying you’re the very best of the continent, I think that just adds a little bit of value to a year.

“And also gave me more motivation to work hard and try and do it again the year after.”

Winning Olympic gold means reaching the pinnacle in sport but what comes next?

“It’s definitely a whirlwind but it’s also what do you do?” added Ferry.

“You have this goal, it’s been a dream for a long time, you have this goal which you have been working on for the past six years and I think it was in my case, what do you do when you reach the goal? What’s after? There’s no plan for after.

“I mean besides all the partying and all of a sudden people knowing who you are and wanting photos and autographs, it’s like what is the part that comes after the goal? Are you happy now? Or is your life satisfied?

“And that’s something that people don’t prepare you for. Luckily I had a girlfriend, now wife,(three-time Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo) who’s had a lot of experience with that, that definitely helped and gave me some direction. Helped me make choices in what to do and what not to do.

“For me, I kind of quickly decided I wanted to continue swimming and wanted to add another Olympic cycle so I think it was mostly fun.”

Ferry went on to win the 10k once more at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, adding double gold at the European Championships in Glasgow the following year.

He came seventh at the Tokyo Olympics before announcing his retirement in December 2021.