Brazilian Swimming Trophy – Maria Lenk is the most important competition of the sport in the country. Not only is it special for Brazilian swimmers because it's trials for international championships like Long Course World Championships, Pan-American Games, and the Olympics, but it is also special because it honors the legend Maria Lenk. Since 2008, Maria Lenk Trophy is mostly held at the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center in Rio de Janeiro, a venue built for the 2007 Pan American Games that also hosted aquatic events for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Maria Lenk made history by being the first South-American woman to participate in the Summer Olympic Games, at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympics. She was also the first Brazilian in history to set a world record in swimming, with a time of 2:56.0 in the 200m Breaststroke in 1939. A true inspiration for us Brazilians! Maria Lenk is remembered for another very markable accomplishment, becoming the first woman in the world to swim the Butterfly stroke in an official competition, in the Berlin 1936 Olympics semifinal. At that time, Butterfly was not yet considered an official swimming stroke, but an alternative form of swimming Breaststroke.
She retired after the cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Games due to World War II, but never stopped swimming. At age 92 she suffered a sudden respiratory arrest while swimming and died on April 16, 2007. One day after her death, the Brazilian Aquatic Sports Confederation (CBDA) named the most important swimming championship in the country in her honor, Maria Lenk Trophy (initially called Brazilian Swimming Trophy). My first Brazilian Swimming Trophy was in 2006 when I turned 15. I was fortunate enough to swim the first edition of Maria Lenk Trophy in 2007! This year, its name changed again to Brazilian Swimming Trophy – Maria Lenk.
Brazilian Swimming Trophy – Maria Lenk is a tournament contested by teams, in which every individual race and relay scores points for club teams, naming a national club team champion. The current champion and the most successful team is Pinheiros with 17 victories, followed by Flamengo and Minas, with 13 and 9 titles respectively. Being a club contest makes the competition even more fun because it builds team spirit, seeking the best results in our events while cheering for teammates. I was part of Minas team for all 13 editions of this meet.
It is very common for club teams to contract international swimmers to sum up more points during the competition. I believe that is a great way to help Brazilian swimming to grow because the competition gets stronger and we have the opportunity to learn from very successful swimmers starting at a young age. Some swimmers that have been in Brazil since my first edition of Brazilian Swimming Trophy – Maria Lenk are:
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