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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In Pursuit Of Competition And Camaraderie

No way. It's not right. Can't be done. Shouldn't be done.

These are just a few of the comments overheard from coaches when the 3-person mixed-gender 5 km relay format was introduced on the international open water swimming circuit.

It is not fair to the men and it's not fair to the women. The 2-men team have advantages over the 2-women teams. We don't have fast men.

The reasons for not competing in the 3-person mixed-gender, draft-inducing Team Pursuit events in the open water swimming world are plentiful.

That's not the way we do it in our country. We don't have enough women.

But to compete well, the open water swimming Team Pursuit demands not only speed and endurance, but also high navigational IQ and positional awareness among teammates. Like a coordinated cycling peloton or a synchronized swimming team, swimming tightly in formation is the best way to efficiently use the strength and power of the faster swimmers and the drafting skills and positioning awareness of the slower swimmers in a Team Pursuit event. And it is not easy in turbulent waters or murky seas.

But, by the looks of the swimmers and chatter among the athletes, the swimming peloton seems to be an enjoyable pursuit for the genders to mix in the course of their training and competitive careers.

And the always far forward thinking triathlon community is also mixing it up. The International Triathlon Union is touting the Triathlon Mixed Relay format and international competitions are adding it to their programs including the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Committee for its 2014 event, the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and the Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships in Switzerland. Marisol Casado, an IOC member who is also the International Triathlon Union president, predicted, "Triathlon is on currently on a high in the United Kingdom, and the Mixed Relay will offer an extra opportunity for the people of Glasgow to watch another thrilling and unpredictable event live on their city streets."

And unpredictability is a given. Three draft-wise, tightly-packed teammates of modest abilities can outswim a trio of faster, independently minded swimmers who take different routes to the finish. While triathlon, short-track skating and cycling have different rules and formats than Team Pursuit races in the open water, there seems to be a different atmosphere and ambiance when the sexes mix it up in the field of play. Both genders seem to step up in intensity and ratchet up their sense of teamwork ... along with genuine hugs and smiles afterwards.

Photo above of the gold medal winning trio of Andrew Gemmell, Ashley Twichell and Sean Ryan at the 2011 World Swimming Championships courtesy of Dr. Jim Miller and the photo below courtesy of the International Triathlon Union.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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