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Getting Physical In The Open Water

Reporting from Shanghai

The start of the 2.5K rectangular course at the 2011 FINA World Swimming
Championships is off of a floating pontoon where up to 65 athletes will be
diving in.

But the first tight 90-degree turn is only 200 meters away. One turn buoy
and 65 athletes. That will inevitably lead to two things: an all-out
sprint to the buoy and a mass collision at the first turn buoy.

2008 Beijing Olympian Melissa Gorman, a 2-time world championship
medalist, summarized the feeling of many athletes and coaches, “I
definitely think it’s going to be a tough race, it will be a fast pace
from the beginning and I will have to expect a few knocks around the

Especially around that first turn buoy.

But there are alternative strategies in the 10K race. “No one is going to
win the race off of the start,” predicted New Zealand open water swimming
coach Philip Rush, himself a legend in the marathon swimming world. “Some
athletes will let their competitors race out to the lead and they can
settle right in behind them. They establish their position well at the
start because it is a 2-hour race.”

A lot can happen – and will – happen during the four loops through choppy
waters. “It is going to be tough handling that turbulence and chop,” said
Philip. “You must be a powerful swimmer in these conditions. No one is
going to swim away with the championship.”

And it will come down to strategic positioning, key tactical moves between
the buoys, intelligent turns and the all-out final sprint at the end.

Melissa seemed to agree, “I think a lot of people are capable of winning
on the day so it’s about sticking with them, and trying to outsprint them
at the end.”

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source

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