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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 Open Water Source

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

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

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

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."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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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.

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