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Sunday, May 8, 2016

What Is The World's Most Difficult Sports Move?

Photo of Brenton Williams by Clive Wright.

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Many (most?) athletes believe their chosen sport is the most difficult and requires the most amount of discipline and talent.

Each sport is unique and special in its own particular way; each move and motion requires a specific type of training and skill set.

So what is the most difficult move in sports? Here are a representative list of some difficult movements to perform well at any level (amateur or professional).

* Swinging a golf club
* Hitting a baseball
* Swimming butterfly
* Big-wave tow-in surfing
* Skiing down a mountain (Giant Slalom)
* Throwing an uppercut
* Jumping over hurdles
* Equestrian (vaulting with a horse)
* Bull riding
* Blocking a shot in water polo
* Blocking a shot in soccer
* The Lutz (jumping in figure skating)
* Diving (flips + turns) off 10m platform
* Jumping in motocross
* Flipping on a balance beam (gymnastics)
* Kicking a rugby ball
* Timing a cricket stroke
* Vertically inverted Iron Cross
* Tumbling in gymnastics
* Snowboard flips
* Freediving
* Car racing

Each of these movements are speciality moves that require practice and a certain level of athleticism. At the highest levels (i.e., Olympic or professional), these movements can be extremely difficult (e.g., hitting a baseball thrown by a professional pitcher or doing a triple Lutz).

With some level of training, preparation and coaching, many humans can do most of these actions. But there are a few that truly require strength, coordination, balance, focus and raw courage (e.g., motocross jumping, bull riding, snowboard flips like the Double McTwist, car racing). We would put those actions on the difficulty scale before pure athletic moves like flipping on a balance beam, doing an Iron Cross or diving off a 10m platform).

But when you combine strength, coordination, balance, focus and raw courage with the dynamic nature of the ocean, it is easy for us to consider Big-wave tow-in surfing as the absolute most difficult move in sports. Its skill sets combine the ability to swim, balance, and anticipate Mother Nature with the need for raw speed, uncommon strength and an unnatural level of stamina to hold one's breath. Those skill sets are augmented by a tremendously high level of courage and thrill-seeking where death can be the result of mistakes in a most gruesome manner - trapped underwater by tons of churning, turbulent water.

But we also have to hand it to athletes who do butterfly in the ocean. While the potential for death is significantly less, these athletes are unique. Already fewer than 1% of humans can do butterfly for more than 25 meters. Yet these ocean-faring butterflyers regularly swim the most exhausting and difficult of swimming maneuvers for miles and miles, hours and hours.

Butterfly is brutally difficult, especially in the open water.

Butterfly takes a lot more strength, from the shoulders to the abs, than freestyle. Butterfly takes a lot of power and energy to do in the open water, especially when lifting your head and shoulders out of turbulent water.

Brian Suddeth, an open water butterflyer, calculated the speed of his fellow butterflyers.

1. Charles Chapman, Jr. in 1988 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (river) in 4.87 kph over 45.8 km in 9 hours 25 minutes
2. Julie Bradshaw in 2011 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (river) in 4.85 kph over 45.8 km in 9 hours 28 minutes
3. Dan Projansky in 2014 END-WET (river) in 4.81 kph over 57.9 km in 12 hours 2 minutes
4. Kathryn Mason in 2014 Rose Pitonof Swim (river) in 4.81 kph over 27.3 km in 5 hours 41 minutes
5. James di Donato and Jonathon di Donato in 1983 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (river) in 4.72 kph over 45.8 km in 9 hours 43 minutes
6. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros in 2012 Descenso a Nado de la Ria de Navia (river) in 4.29 kph over 5 km in 1 hour 10 minutes
7. Natalie Lambert in 1993 Lake Erie swim (lake) in 4.14 kph over 32.1 km in 7 hours 47 minutes
8. Dan Projansky in 2013 END-WET (river) in 3.95 kph over 43 km in 14 hours 30 minutes
9. Sylvain Estadieu in 2013 Lee Swim Cork (river) in 3.72 kph over 2 km in 32:28 minutes
10. Gianni Golini in 1977 Strait of Messina (sea) in 3.71 kph over 3.2 km in 51:49 minutes
11. Brenton Williams [shown above] and Kyle Harris in 2014 Pulse Swim (bay) in 3.66 kph over 5 km in 1 hour 22 minutes
12. James di Donato and Jonathon di Donato in 1985 Bahamas to Florida attempt (ocean) in 3.25 kph over 65.3 km in 20 hours 6 minutes
13. Brenton Williams in 2011 Steers Marina Mile (marina) in 3.17 kph over 25 km in 7 hours 53 minutes
14. Sylvain Estadieu in 2010 Baltic Sea in 3.13 kph over 6 km in 1 hour 55 minutes
15. Sylvain Estadieu in 2012 Lake Delsjön in 3.12 kph over 5 km in 1 hour 36 minutes
16. Gianni Golini in 1976 Strait of Messina (sea) in 3.11 kph in 6.5 km in 2 hours 23 minutes
17. Dan Projansky in 2012 END-WET (river) in 3.00 kph over 43 km in 14 hours 30 minutes
18. Sylvain Estadieu in 2013 Sandycove Island (sea) in 2.99 kph over 22.4 km in 7 hours 30 minutes
19. Julie Bradshaw in 2006 Lough Erne in 2.97 kph over 16.89 km in 5 hours 41 minutes
20. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros in 2012 Ruidera in 2.94 kph over 9.3 km in 3 hours 1 minute
21. Graham Barratt in 1992 Lake Bala in 2.93 kph over 5.23 km in 1 hours 47 minutes
22. Brenton Williams in 2012 Nelson Bay Bell Buoy Challenge in 2.89 kph over 8 km in 2 hours 46 minutes
23. Charles Tupitza 2013 Jim Mcdonnell Lake Swim in 2.84 kph over 1.6 km in 34:03 minutes
24. Francesca Mazari in 1992 Strait of Messina (sea) in 2.79 kph over 6.5 km in 2 hours 36 minutes
25. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros in 2012 Iruelas Valley in 2.77 kph over 9.0 km in 3 hours 15 minutes
26. Kathryn Mason in 2009 Lough Erne Irish Championships in 2.76 kph over 17 km in 6 hours 9 minutes
27. Julie Bradshaw in 1991 Lake Windermere in 2.76 kph over 16.9 km in 6 hours 7 minutes
28. Larry Paulson in 2013 Jim Mcdonnell Lake Swim in 2.74 kph over 1.6 km in 35:12 minutes
29. Julie Bradshaw in 1995 Coniston in 2.71 kph over 8.44 km in 3 hours 7 minutes
30. Sylvain Estadieu in 2013 Lake Delsjön in 2.69 kph over 21.5 km in 8 hours 0 minutes
31. Brenton Williams in 2012 Marina Martinique in Jeffreys Bay in 2.69 kph over 17 km in 6 hours 20 minutes
32. Vicki Keith in Sydney Harbour in 2.68 kph over 36.21 km in 13 hours 30 minutes
33. Brenton Williams in 2012 Jeffreys Bay Swim Challenge in 2.61 kph over 4 km in 1 hours 32 minutes
34. Julie Bradshaw in 1996 Ullswater in 2.60 kph over 11.66 km in 4 hours 29 minutes
35. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros in Cullera (sea) in 2.59 kph over 10 km in 3 hours 52 minutes
36. Kathryn Mason in 2012 Lough Erne in 2.56 kph over 25 km in 9 hours 45 minutes
37. Robin Lajoie in 2014 Welland, Ontario in 2.49 kph over 10 km in 4 hours 0 minutes
38. Eli Ball 2015 Sri Chinmoy National Capital Swim in 2.45 kph over 9 km in 3 hours 39 minutes
39. Brenton Williams in 2012 Shell Festival Sea Swim in 2.43 kph over 2.5 km in 1 hour 1 minute
40. Julie Bradshaw in 2002 English Channel in 2.37 kph in 34 km in 14 hours 18 minutes
41. Ross Bogue in 2014 Big Shoulders (lake) in 2.37 kph over 5 km in 2 hours 6 minutes
42. Robin Lajoie in 2012 Welland, Ontario (canal) in 2.32 kph over 10 km in 4 hours 18 minutes
43. Vicki Keith in Lake Winnipeg in 2.30 kph over 28.9 km in 13 hours 0 minutes
44. Kathryn Mason in 2014 S.C.A.R. (lake) in 2.29 kph over 15.2 km in 6 hours 3 minutes
45. Vicki Keith in Strait of Juan de Fuca in 2.29 kph over 32 km in 14 hours 0 minutes
46. Brian Suddeth in 2011 Great Chesapeake Bay Swim in 2.26 kph over 1.6 km in 42:46 minutes
47. Brian Suddeth in 2011 Great Chesapeake Bay Swim in 2.25 kph over 1.6 km in 43:00 minutes
48. Vicki Keith in 1989 Catalina Channel in 2.21 kph over 32.5 km in 14 hours 43 minutes
49. Brenton Williams in 2012 Deep Blue Invitational Swim in 2.17 kph over 8 km in 3 hours 41 minutes
50. Brian Suddeth in 2015 Oxford-Bellevue Sharkfest in 2.13 kph over 1.5 km in 42:33 minutes
51. Sylvain Estadieu in 2012 Lake Vidöstern attempt in 2.08 kph over 13.5 km in 6 hours 30 minutes
52. Julie Bradshaw in 2000 Coniston 2-Way in 2.03 kph over 17.7 km in 8 hours 42 minutes
53. Sylvain Estadieu in 2013 English Channel in 2.03 kph over 34 km in 16 hours 41 minutes
54. Philip Martin in 2001 Rottnest Channel in 2.02 kph over 19.7 km in 9 hours 45 minutes
55. Kathryn Mason in 2014 S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge (lake) in 1.99 kph over 10 km in 4 hours 51 minutes
56. Julie Bradshaw in 2006 Lake Bala in 1.96 kph over 10.46 km in 5 hours 2 minutes
57. Dan Projansky in 2014 S.C.A.R. Swim Challenge (lake) 1.86 kph over 15.2 km in 8 hours 8 minutes
58. James di Donato and Jonathon di Donato in 1982 Fort Lauderdale to Florida (ocean) in 1.79 kph over 26.55 km in 14 hours 50 minutes
59. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros in Strait of Gibraltar in 1.79 kph over 14 km in 7 hours 5 minutes
60. Vicki Keith in Lake Ontario in 1.66 kph over 51.5 km over 31 hours 0 minutes
61. Vicki Keith in English Channel in 1.54 kph over 36.21 km over 23 hours 33 minutes
62. Vicki Keith in Lake Ontario in 1.26 kph over 80.2 km in 63 hours 40 minutes

Butterfly data is courtesy of Brian Suddeth, an open water butterflyer himself.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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