Eva Fabian emerged from a competitive pool to win the Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center Union Leader Athlete of the Month award for July.
But then, that's exactly what she's known for.
The swimmer from Keene won the bronze medal in the women's 25-kilometer open-water event at the 15th annual FINA World Swimming Championships in Barcelona, Spain, on July 29. A sophomore at Yale University and the daughter of Keene State College swimming and diving coach Jack Fabian, she finished in 5 hours, 7 minutes and 20.4 seconds in Barcelona Harbor.
Fabian edged out a tight field to emerge with the most points on the Union Leader Board of Judges ballots. Senior Games record-setter Buzz Gagne of Penacook finished in second place, earning three first-place votes.
"It's an honor. I'm very grateful. It's nice to be recognized in New Hampshire," Fabian said. "I love that there are elite athletes that come from the state and it's nice to be able to represent New Hampshire on the world stage."
Fabian has made the World team four times, winning a gold in the 5k in Canada in 2010. In 2009 she placed 10th in the 25k and her goal this time was to reach the medals podium.
"It was awesome. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. The 25k is a challenging event," Fabian said. "The 5k is only an hour and it was amazing, but this means so much more to me because of what a struggle and a journey the 25k is. It's a five-hour race and a lot goes down. It was a huge goal for me to get to the podium and I'm really proud of that."
With the race clocking in at more than five hours, the event is as much a mental challenge as a physical one.
"It's a huge mental game. Most of us are 10k swimmers and when we sign up for the 25, it's a huge adjustment. It's incredibly difficult and challenging," Fabian said. "You have to be on your game for five hours, but at the same time very relaxed for the first four and a half. You go through a lot of ups and downs and you have to be prepared mentally for going through those downs and feeling terrible in the middle and knowing you will end up feeling better."
Fabian said that both her father and Yale coach Jim Henry were helpful in getting her prepared for the race, but her own previous experience was also valuable.
"My dad and Jim Henry at Yale, they were a great resource," she said. "I get a lot of good advice and then I have to use my own instinct. Having been through it once, you have an idea of what is going to go down."
Fabian said that she hopes her college career will be enhanced by the medal experience in Spain.
"That race is a journey. You learn a lot about yourself. It will help me as a racer," she said. "I hope to bring that commitment and my experience back to Yale to help my teammates out."
Gagne, 66, set a record for the 65-69 age bracket in the javelin throw at the National Senior Games in Cleveland in late July. His throw of 161 feet, 8 inches shattered the old mark of 143 feet (set in 1997).
The rest of the field for July included Grant Lavigne (Bedford, baseball), Dylan Chase (Rye, baseball), Eric Evans (Dover, golf), Ricky Kramer (Strafford, baseball), Tim Manwaring (Keene, golf), Mike Martel (New Ipswich, golf), Evan Russell (Grantham, golf) and Phillip Schmitz (Mont Vernon, golf).
Athletes of the Month receive their awards in winter at the Union Leader's sports banquet, The Leaders: a Celebration of Sports Champions.
To submit a nomination for Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader sports department at email@example.com and enter "Athlete of the Month" in the subject line.
Previous 2013 winners: January — Sean Doherty, Conway, biathlon; February — Drew Ledwith, Keene, swimming; March — Kaleb Tarczewski, Claremont, basketball; April — Mariah Crisp, Greenland, softball, and Eric Jensen, Gorham, baseball; May — Carson Cross, Brentwood, baseball; June — Rick Holt, football and baseball, Portsmouth.