FORT LAUDERDALE – The International
Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) today announced that Long Distance swimmer Walter
Poenisch, of Grove City, Ohio will be one of seventeen (17) honorees to enter
the International Swimming Hall of Fame as the Class of 2017. Walter
s is the third name
to be announced for ceremonies to be held August 25-27, in Fort Lauderdale.
Previously, the names of Wu Chuanyu and Zhang Xiuwei were announced.

Lost in time and in
the avalanche of publicity surrounding attempts by others to swim from Cuba to
the USA over the past 40 years is the remarkable story of Walter Poenisch and
Swim for Peace.’”says Bruce Wigo,
s President and
Walter will enter
the ISHOF as a
Pioneerand I want to
commend the selection committee and it
s Chairman, Camillo Cametti, of
Verona, Italy, for recognizing Walter, who was one of the first to use his
swimming talents to promote a greater cause.
The Pioneer category was created to
honor great achievements that have been overlooked by the fog of time or
special circumstances that interfered with their careers, such as accidents,
war or politics.

Born on July 11,
1913, Walter Poenisch was a baker, rodeo competitor, strongman and swimmer, who
entered his first competitive swim in 1963, to show that a 50 year old man
could be as active as young fellows. It was the 60-mile Jim Moran
[1] professional marathon
swim in Lake Michigan.

Walter failed to finish but was hooked on the sport and
was determined to swim even greater distances. Troubled by the Cuban Missile
Crisis that brought the world to brink of nuclear catastrophe, he conceived of
the idea of swimming the 90 miles from Cuba to the USA for world peace. To further better
relations between my country and Cuba,
he said. As the USA had no formal
relations with Cuba, Walter started a letter writing campaign to governments
that had contact with Havana. With optimism and onfidence in his cause, Walter
immediately began serious training. But the required permissions were not
forthcoming. For years he continued to write letters, make calls and worked
with Rene Mujica of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, DC. All the
while, he continued to train, setting up training camps in Fort Lauderdale and
keeping his dream alive in the media with stunts like towing boats filled with
passengers and setting long-distance records in the Florida Straits. In 1976 he
swam — certifiably  into the Guinness
Book of World Records — 122 1/2 miles from Key West to the tip of the Florida
peninsula, at the time the world’s longest ocean swim. In 1976, he received
permission from the Cuban government to apply for a visa, which was finally
granted in March of 1978. The swim was planned to begin on July 11th, 1978, a
date coinciding with Walter
s 65th birthday. On
hand to personally celebrate Walter
s birthday and wish
him success on his
Swim for Peacewas Cuban leader
Fidel Castro. Before entering the water, Castro proposed a toast honoring
s efforts and his dream of
peace between their two nations. Walter was the first

person to attempt to swim
from Cuba to the USA for sport and rules were drawn up by an authenticating
organization, The International Federation of Ocean Swimmers and Divers.  These rules, announced before the swim,
permitted him to use a shark cage, fins to protect his feet from the cage, and
a snorkel. He was also permitted to get out of the water up to four times for a
period of no longer than five minutes to administer emergency medicine
treatment, receive critical nourishment or for any reason that directly
threatened the life of the swimmer. Walter followed these rules to the tee and
thirty-four hours after leaving Cuba, Walter completed his dream, culminating
on the shores of Little Duck Key, Florida. According to legendary sports
reporter and author David Heeren, who covered Walter
s swim for the Fort
Lauderdale News,
His (Walters) accomplishment
was greater, in my opinion, than the climb of Everest. There have been many
Everest climbers, but only one (legitimate) Cuba to U.S.A. swimmer.

Walter Poenisch
passed away on June 6, 2000, never having received the recognition due him for
inspiring generations of swimmers and others with his persistence, perseverance
and courage.  He is survived by his wife,
Faye, who will accept his honor on his behalf.


The International
Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is a not-for-profit educational organization
located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to promote the benefits and
importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and
the water safety of all adults and children.
 It accomplishes this through operation
of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a dynamic shrine dedicated to
preserving the history, memory, and recognition of the famous swimmers, divers,
water polo players, synchronized swimmers and people involved in life saving
activities and education whose lives and accomplishments inspire, educate, and
provide role models for people around the world. For more information contact
Bruce Wigo at 954-462-6536 ext. 201, or by email

[1] Jim Moran was a famous car dealer and
philanthropist who received ISHOF
s Gold Medallion Award in 1995.  see: https://www.ishof.org/jim-moran.html

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