Do you veer into your rival and take him away from the straight-line tangent to the finish? Do you swim straight and parallel to your opponent? Do you feign fatigue, fall back at his hips, and then make a final burst closer to the finish?
All those different decisions are determined by a number of factors.
Those factors include your speed relative to your competitor, the remaining distance to the finish, and your willingness to engage in physicality.
If you are faster than your competitor, just kick it in and outsprint him. The general rule is when you are the superior swimmer, swim the shortest distance in the fastest amount of time. Conversely, if you are slower than your competitor, then it is time to pull out the open water bags of tactical tricks. Veer into him, take him off his preferred course and give yourself a fighting chance to win. Engage in some physicality to put him in a position of uncomfortness.
If you are fairly equal with your opponent, you may want to feign fatigue and fall back to draft off his hips. Just hug in closely, catch his draft, and then at the optimal moment not too far from the finish, kick it into overdrive and outsprint him to the finish. Physicality is optional in this case.
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