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Virginia Hunt Newman International Award

2008 Jose Fontanelli


Swimming teacher José Fontanelli has a passion for baby swimming. ‘Affectionate’ describes his manner in having taught tens of thousands of young pupils over the past 40 years in his homeland of Sao Paulo, Brazil. ‘Fonta’ loves his babies!


Fontanelli uses research and technique in a variety of disciplines to speed the development and enhance the comfort of students and their parents who accompany them in the pool. Research has shown that children in vitro recognize different people outside the womb as well as their mother’s reaction to those people. Applying this, Fontanelli was among the first in the world to extend the ‘starting time’ for a baby swimming to the pre-natal period – where expectant mothers come to the pool for movement and exercise experiences. After the baby is born, the mother returns for ‘baby & parent’ classes, now much more at ease in the environment.


Fontanelli has authored the book Between Pleasure and Technique – focusing on aquatic development of babies and toddlers. He has been featured in newspaper and magazine articles and is often a presenter at swim teacher conferences throughout Latin and South America. José has trained numerous teachers in his affectionate, child-centered, non-traumatic methods and has been the organizer of numerous educational conferences and training clinics on baby swimming and water exercise for pregnant mothers.


A former club swimmer and backstroke state record holder in Sao Paulo, Fontanelli graduated in physical education with specialization in swimming and additional training in pediatric emergency care.

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