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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Patience, Patience, Patience In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

What makes an Olympic champion? Physical prowess, dedication and mental toughness are key attributes. The Olympic 10K Marathon Swim gold medalist Maarten van der Weijden has all three, but it is his mental toughness that is so impressive.

Not only did Van der Weijden famously overcome leukemia, but he also predicted - and executed - his profound racing strategy in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim.

During the Olympic final in Beijing, he sat in the pack, patiently bidding his time for the first 8 km. He flawlessly executed 90 minutes of controlled and patient swimming in a pack of aggressive swimmers. Then, as he had trained for and prepared, he started to gradually edge up in the lead group, always carefully picking spots where he was able to gain a meter here and another meter there. Finally, in the last 500 meters he moved into position for a medal, but he seemed way too far behind leader David Davies to win.

The distance between himself and a man who was literally nearly a minute faster in a 1500m in a pool was something surmountable and within his capabilities.

With 100 meters to go, the course took a slight angle towards the finish pads and Davies got a bit confused as to the best line. As Davies pushed Thomas Lurz off the straight-line tangent, Van der Weijden was provided the opening that he needed to seek his dream. As Van der Weijden said after the first world championship win in the 25 km race in Seville where he used the same strategy, "...I know I can swim faster than these guys in the final 100 meters. So my strategy was to be patient for the first 24.9 kilometers and save something."

That he did as he spurt past the two leaders and distanced himself from the rest of the pack to win the first Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in 2008.

Results of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim

GOLD - Maarten van der Weijden, 1:51:51.6
SILVER - David Davies, 1:51:53.1 (1.5 seconds behind leader)
BRONZE - Thomas Lurz, 1:51:53.6 (2.0 seconds behind leader)
4 - Valerio Cleri, 1:52:07.5 (15.9 seconds behind leader)
5 - Evgeny Drattsev, 1:52:08.9 (17.3 seconds behind leader)
6 - Petar Stoychev, 1:52:09.1 (17.5 seconds behind leader)
7 - Brian Ryckeman, 1:52:10.7 (19.1 seconds behind leader)
8 - Mark Warkentin, 1:52:13.0 (21.4 seconds behind leader)
9 - Chad Ho, 1:52:13.1 (21.5 seconds behind leader)
10 - Erwin Maldonado, 1:52:13.6 (22.0 seconds behind leader)
11 - Ky Hurst, 1:52:13.7 (22.1 seconds behind leader)
12 - Igor Chervynskiy, 1:52:14.7 (23.1 seconds behind leader)
13 - Francisco Hervas, 1:52:16.5 (24.9 seconds behind leader)
14 - Allan Carmo, 1:52:16.6 (25.0 seconds behind leader)
15 - Gilles Rondy, 1:52:16.7 (25.1 seconds behind leader)
16 - Spyridon Gianniotis, 1:52:20.4 (28.8 behind leader)
17 - Rostislav Vitek, 1:52:41.8 (50.2 behind leader)
18 - Luis Escobar, 1:53:47.9 (1:56 behind leader)
19 - Saleh Mohammad, 1:54:37.7 (2:46 behind leader)
20 - Mohamed El Zanaty, 1:55:17.0 (3:25 behind leader)
21 - Damian Blaum, 1:55:48.6 (3:57 behind leader)
22 - Arseniy Lavrentyev, 2:03:39.6 (11:48 behind leader)
23 - Xin Tong, 2:09:13.4 (17:21 behind leader)
24 - Csaba Gercsak, did not finish
25 - Vladimir Dyatchin, disqualified in a time of 1:52:13.7 (22.1 seconds behind leader)

Photos of Maarten by Robert F. Bukaty of the Associated Press.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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