Chalk 2015 up as a big year for Austin swimmer Jamie Tout.
In September, the 62-year-old swam 20.2 miles across the Catalina Channel off the California coast in 11 hours and 18 minutes. Then, just three days later, he swam 28.5 miles around Manhattan to log his 10th circumnavigation of the skyscraper-clad island in New York. And he did it 13 minutes faster than his previous best time, back in 1991 when he was 38 years old.
Now the World Open Water Swimming Association has named Tout one of 12 nominees – and the only American – for title of 2015 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year.
The award recognizes a lifetime of swimming. Tout has completed what’s known in swimming circles as the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming – meaning he’s swum the English Channel, the Catalina Channel and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. He’s also the second oldest swimmer to log those endurance swims.
Tout, also a runner and triathlete, finished the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in 1981. His personal record in the marathon is 2 hours and 48 minutes. He swam around Manhattan Island for the first time in 1985, then made his English Channel crossing in 1987.
What sets Tout apart, though, is that he’d hung up his goggles after being diagnosed with heart disease.
“The doctor said four years ago it was a thin red line separating me from death,” he says. “I decided then I was going to quit and get a tattoo. Then something amazing happened in 2014. I read online that George Bush Sr. jumped out of plane at age 90. I told my wife, ‘That kind of reminds me of me.’”
Tout started swimming again. At first, he couldn’t hold his breath long enough to do a proper flip turn. He gradually picked up speed and distance. Eventually he was knocking off 8- or 9-mile swims every weekend.
Tout is nominated alongside ocean swimmers, ice swimming record holders, ocean advocates and an Olympian for the award. The winner will be chosen based on an online voting poll.
“To me it’s a great honor. it’s a confirmation of something I’ve spent a whole lifetime doing,” he said.
The contest ends Jan. 1. To vote, go here.