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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Speaking Global Language of Open Water Swimming In Rio

Outside the FINA open water swimming circuit, there are a number of high-level, highly competitive open water competitions around the world. Many of these events are held in exotic places in great venues.

This week, a number of elite open water swimmers are gathering in Rio de Janeiro to compete at the King and Queen of the Sea competition on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games marathon swim course.

Whisked from the Rio airport right to the Golden Tulip Continental right on the shores of Copacabana Beach, the athletes are made to immediately feel right at home with the Brazil warm-hearted hospitality. With athletes like 3-time Olympic medalist Ous Mellouli and English Channel record holder Trent Grimsey hanging out in the lobby with 10 km and 25 km world champion Valerio Cleri and 5 km team pursuit gold medalist Ashley Twichell and Olympian Zsofia, the world of open water swimming is well represented.

The hotel is a stone’s throw away from the start and finish of the 2016 Olympic marathon swimming course, next to the Fortes de Copacabana. Protected in large part from the rough water of the Atlantic Ocean by the contours of the land, the course can still rocked with large ocean swells and some heavy surf. But Copacabana Beach presents an outstanding aquatic amphitheater for open water swimming. Shaped like a half moon, thousands of spectators can have a great visual of the athletes in the water.

The King and Queen of the Sea features not only 19 outstanding open water swimmers who are competing in a 4 km made-for-television extravaganza this Sunday, but also over 2,500 amateurs who take part in the event’s shorter races on Saturday. Both the amateur and professional races are held amid a rock band playing on a huge stage on the beach with signage that towers 3-stories high, augmented by pageantry and colorful signage that is uniquely Brazilian.

The athletes include Ous Mellouli (Olympian from Tunisia), Valerio Cleri (Olympian from Italy), Trent Grimsey (Australia), Chad Ho (Olympian from South Africa), Samuel de Bona (Brazil), Alexander Studzinski (Germany), Zsofia Balazs (Olympian from Canada), Ashley Twichell (USA), Lexie Kelly (USA), Luis Rogerio Arapirica (Brazil), Allan do Carmo (Olympian from Brazil), Betina Lorscheitter (Brazil), Poliana Okimoto (Olympian from Brazil), Ana Marcela Cunha (Olympian from Brazil), Nadine Reichert (Germany), and Lucas da Cruz Kanieski (Brazil).

"The King and Queen of the Sea has become the biggest ocean sports festival in Brazil," explains founder Pedro Rego Monteiro. "We have the runners with the beach run, the triathletes in the biathlon, the paddlers in the stand-up paddling competition. But the core - the DNA - of the King and Queen of the Sea remains the open water swimmers."

On race day, Copacabana Beach is packed with athletes of every size, shape and speed. "It is nice to have the different tribes participating in the King and Queen of the Sea. The runners, swimmers, surfers, paddlers and triathletes are all great to see - and their differences are very noticeable to see. For the swimmers including the 2,500 amateurs and top pros from around the world, we try to make the quality of the event greater and greater each year," continued Monteiro.

Over 5 days in Rio de Janeiro, the elite open water athletes train, travel, eat, socialize and race together. While the competitive juices flow like hot lava out of a volcano on race day, the camaraderie, respect and friendliness among the open water swimmers before and after the race is a wonderful sight to see. They bond, they joke, they exchange stories of their daily lives and future goals. They understand deeply and profoundly the sacrifices and discomfort they all undergo to reach the highest echelon of their sport.

While the athletes are collectively fluent in Portuguese, English, Italian, Arabic, German, they all speak the intimate language of open water swimming.

For more information on the King and Queen of the Sea (Desafio Rei e Rainha do Mar), visit here.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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