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Thursday, July 19, 2012

What Is The Olympic Marathon Swimming Course?

Fast, flat and furious.

Tough, tactical and tricky.

Easy-to-see, easy-to-get-to and easy-to-understand.

That pretty much sums up the Olympic marathon swimming course for the athletes, coaches and spectators at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Why fast, flat and furious?

The course is held on the home venue of the Serpentine Swimming Club in Hyde Park in the heart of London. The Serpentine is a flat, protected, man-made lake that will generate few ripples and has no currents. The athletes will swim 6 loops around the perimeter of the lake in a pace where the top echelon will drop the slower swimmers by the fourth loop. With 10-15 swimmers vying for a medal over the last hour, they will swim in a tight pack but with more physical space that is usually available in a world championship race.

With over 30,000 spectators and a worldwide television audience watching the marathon swim, the athletes will be riding high on adrenalin and their normal pace will be quicker. On the women's side, overwhelming gold medal favorite Keri-Anne Payne will take it out hard as she normally does and will challenge the rest of the women to keep up with her.

On the men's side, Spyros Gianniotis, Thomas Lurz and others will be wary of the closing speed of Ous Mellouli and will need to push the pace quickly and early in order to avoid a mano-a-mano sprint vs. Mellouli at the end.

Why tough, tactical and tricky?

It is the Olympics and the athletes will be swimming faster than ever before. No one will give a centimeter to their fellow competitor. The top men will swim faster than 1:08 per 100 meters on average throughout the entire 10,000m race. The women will swim faster than 1:12 per 100 meters on average...without turns, walls or lane lines.

It will be tactical because all the top athletes will come in with different strategies. With the water expected to be a comfortable 20°C (68°F) only a few athletes will feel slightly chilled and everyone will be on top of their game. For a dark horse to upset Payne, Lurz or Gianniotis, they will have to take some chances. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Gianniotis attempted a break-away with 1.2 km to go. He moved out into clear water with the momentum on his side, running up alongside the side of the then-leader David Davies. But that tactic in 2008 did not result in a gold medal for the 2012 co-gold medal favorite. What does he have up his sleeve in 2012?

It is tricky because there are so many different straight-line tangents along the course. A high navigational IQ is required although the course will be clearly marked with easy-to-see Olympic-sized buoys. But there are no greater geniuses in this area than Payne and Lurz. Expect these two to be cutting a wide wake towards the front, enabling swimmers like Trojan Swim Club teammates Mellouli and Haley Anderson to draft behind and then try to steal the race with a closing sprint.

Why easy-to-see, easy-to-get-to and easy-to-understand?

The Olympic marathon swim course is 6 loops in a flat-water course with right shoulder turns. From the perspective of television viewers, the host London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and NBC will provide telling close-ups and beautiful panoramic shots throughout the race.

Hyde Park will also be open to the public and the races will be free to watch. Just stand along the shore and observe some of the most fit individuals in the world go mano-a-mano for 2 hours.

If individuals want to replicate what the Olympians will undergo in London, they can participate in the Swim Across America event in Long Beach, California on September 23rd.

For more information, visit here for the Swim Across America 10K event and here for the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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