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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Winning Strategy Of Olympic Champion Ous Mellouli

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

After watching Oussama Mellouli win the Olympic 10km Marathon Swim in London, we marveled at his strength, speed and stamina.

But his strategy was also flawless for 3 reasons:

1. Positioning

Mellouli placed himself nearly perfectly throughout the race. While swimmers complained about the physicality of the race, and for the first 7km of the marathon swim, a pack of 24 men swam in close proximity to one another, Mellouli set himself up away from the main pack and out of the middle of other swimmers.

Mellouli kept true to the most important self-protection rule in elite swimming: only have one competitor at your side (i.e., do not get boxed in with swimmers on one's left and right sides). At the start, he shot into the lead and was nearly always swimming clear of other competitors.

While he did not benefit from a draft for most of the race, Mellouli's positioning significantly reduced the amount of physicality that he had to deal with compared to his competitors. This enabled him to remain relatively fresh for the last 3 km.

2. Pacing

The race appeared to be on the slow side for the elite swimmers over the first 7 km. The men were swimming casually at times with some increased efforts here and there. This pacing played right into the hands of the 3-time Tunisian Olympic medalist. The pace essentially turned a 10 km race into a 3 km race.

While other men had swum 25 km or 20 miles (in the case of Petar Stoychev) before, Mellouli had never swim a full 10 km fast in a competition (although he certainly has done a decade of extremely hard and fast pool training of significant distances). But Mellouli can and could certainly handle a fast 3 km swim/sprint at the end of a race - especially when the sun is out, the water is 20°C and the initial 7 km pace did not tax him much. He probably might have still won, but it would have been interesting to see if the pace would have been very fast from the start.

3. Surging

Mellouli made his initial sprint towards the finish at precisely the right time. While other competitors were coming up to the feeding station, Mellouli carried on and established a nice initial cushion from which others never made up. If he would have made a similar surge at any other time in the race, the initial cushion would have been less.

He and his coaches prepared and planned nearly perfectly for his Olympic victory.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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