DNOWS Header

Image Map

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ous Mellouli, Turning Injuries And Pressure Into Olympic Gold

Olympian Ous Mellouli of Tunisia was training this morning with English Channel record holder Trent Grimsey and other world champions like 10 km and 25 km world champion Valerio Cleri and 5 km team pursuit gold medalist Ashley Twichell at the Clube de Regatas do Flamengo pool in Rio de Janeiro.

On the pool deck at one of Brazil's richest fútbol clubs and the second most valuable club in South America, Mellouli talked about performing under pressure at the Olympic Games. "London was my fourth Olympics. The first one in Sydney didn't start off well. I finished 43rd out of 45 swimmers in the 400 individual medley. I went out fast, setting a Tunisian record in the butterfly for the 100 meters...but it didn't end well," recalled the Tunisian 3-time Olympic medalist.

But in Beijing and London, Mellouli came through like a champion.

"London was great, but I was facing the biggest pressure [of my life]. When I did not perform well in Shanghai [at the 2011 World Swimming Championships] and I was dealing with my injuries and not training well, I was taking a lot of heat," recalled Mellouli. "People back home [in Tunisia] and the media kept asking me how thing are going and had tied me with the former regime. They said I was going to marry the president's daughter. There was all kinds of pressure."

Mellouli, a graduate of the University of Southern California, lives in Los Angeles, California, but as he says, "My body is in L.A., but my heart and soul are back home." So the external pressures and expectations of his fellow countrymen, politicians and media were tremendous, especially for the only returning Olympic gold medalist and, in fact, throughout the entire Middle East.

Similar to Pelé in fútbol and Michael Jordan in basketball, Mellouli is clutch. He performs best at the highest stages. But his road to success in London, where he won a bronze medal in the 1500m freestyle and a gold medal in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim was filled with risk and uncertainty. Yet he rose to the occasion by facing the risks head-on and transforming uncertainty through radical decisions made without regrets.

"I did a complete 180 in my training and left Los Angeles in April [four months before the London Olympics]. I took a huge gamble and headed off in a completely different direction. I trained at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona for a month, then went to Portugal in order to qualify for the Olympic 10K. then I went back to Flagstaff, then Denmark and finally to Croatia. A week before leaving to the Olympics, I headed back to Los Angeles because my shoulder was still hurting me and I had to see a specialist.

[The shoulder] felt a little bit better, but when I got to London, I decided to scratch [my first event] the 400m freestyle. It turned out to be a great decision. Because of the press, there was a lot of pressure. If I did not perform well, the press and the people back home would have been very disappointed.

My next event was the 1500m, but even the day before the race, I did a set of 10 x 50 @ :45 easy-hard. But I was only able to hold 30s on the fast 50s even going pedal to the medal. I figured that I would be lucky to even break 15 minutes

But in his stereotypical fashion, Mellouli turned things around within 24 hours by remaining humble and living in the moment. "[Before the start of the race] I just tell myself that I am grateful to be here [at the Olympics]. Anything that I comes now [in his fourth Olympics} is a plus. I want to shine and I want to be clutch."

During the preliminary heat, Mellouli swam a 14:47. "I felt like I was cruising. I was great." Then came the Olympic final where he earned a bronze with a blazing fast 14:40. "It was my fastest time ever in a jammer - and I did it at the age of 28. It was great and gave me confidence for the 10K marathon swim."

With five days between the 1500m finals and the Olympic 10K, there was plenty of time to recover and prepare, but Mellouli was thrown for another loop when he caught a fever and was bed-ridden with a virus. "I took antibiotics to try to control the symptoms and decrease the fever. I had to keep my appetite up, but I was not sure I could even swim a few days before the 10K. This is why when I got out of the 10K, I told the press that this was a miracle. Because it was."

Mellouli explains his mindset as he stood on the standing pontoon, facing the pressures of his country and the media while surrounded by 24 of the best marathon swimmers in the world. "I am here to give it my best shot. Whatever happens, happens. I swim and live in the moment. You have to tell yourself, I don't care. I am here to have fun and will give it my best shot."

And that he did, swimming in the moment. "I did what I needed to do. I was aware of who was on my left and who was on my right. I knew where [Thomas] Lurz was and where Spyros [Gianniotis] was. I knew where the buoys were on my left and what was on my right." His awareness of the course, situation and competitors was extremely helpful in determining his pace and positioning. But the quick study from Tunisia did not always possess this racing savvy and knowledge.

"In my first 10K race [at the FINA World Cup race] in Cancun, I made all the mistakes possible. It was a great learning experience. Every mistake, I did. I was leading, but in the final 800m, I got bombed. All the top guys were there and I got 11th. I told myself that I cannot let this happen again. I want to give it my best and came back much better in Portugal [in his second 10K where he qualified for the Olympic 10K final]."

Mellouli greatly utilized that experience and his mindset to win his second gold medal in the 10K in the Serpentine. The crowd at Hyde Park was treated to an outstanding race where Mellouli controlled the race, largely from the front. With less than 3000m to go, Mellouli took off to win in 1:49:55. His memories remain golden.

"London was cool. Those Olympics were the best. The overall energy of the crowds and everyone was so welcoming to us. People say Sydney was great, but [for me] London was great."

Now in the afterglow of his Olympic success, the triple-medalist Mellouli remains the humble and grateful individual that he is climbs on the starting blocks. Walking along Copacabana Beach and on the pool deck of the Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, he spends time with young swimmers and adults who come up to him for photographs or autographs.

"I am here to give it my best shot."

Great words to live by.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

Swim Across the English Channel...


Who else is looking for a qualified open water swimming coach to help them swim across the English Channel?

Chloë McCardel is a 6-time English Channel Swimmer who inspires and instructs. Access featured content by Chloë in this month's issue of the Open Water Swimming Magazine. Published monthly by WOWSA, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a digital, interactive publication made available exclusively to WOWSA members. See what you've been missing! Become a WOWSA member today!

Open Water Swimming Magazine

Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...

The Other Shore

The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac

An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:

The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program