Craig Dietz Catches Olympic Fever In Swim Across America

Craig Dietz Catches Olympic Fever In Swim Across America

On August 9th (women) and 10th (men) in the Serpentine in the center of London, 50 of the world’s fastest open water swimmers from 34 countries will showcase their talents and tenacity at the Olympic 10km Marathon Swim.

They will inspire us and showcase the sport as never before. Their tactics will be analyzed, their swimming styles will be emulated and their exploits will be all over the social media.

As a result, many others will want to give the sport a try. Some will try to swim in the open water, others may attempt to do a triathlon, and others will attempt a marathon swim for the first time.

Certainly there are growing numbers of marathon swims around the world (see here).

Craig Dietz, the Limbless Waterman, is no different. After completing his longest swim to date – the 4.4 miles of the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, his goals became greater.

I’ve never been one to just sit around and do nothing. I like to push myself,” explained Dietz to Fox News. In the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, he faced a typically aggressive field of competitors. “I got punched in the nose by a swimmer out there. He was – not on purpose – just swimming by me, didn’t see me and just stroked right into my face.”

After giving a speech at the Global Open Water Swimming Conference on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, Dietz will enter the Swim Across America 10 km swim on September 23rd.

He was originally going to enter the Swim Across America 5 km swim, but he caught the Olympic fever and decided to swim in the replica of the Olympic 10km Marathon Swim course. “Find another way to challenge yourself. There’s different strokes for different folks, but find some way to get out there and challenge yourself,” advises the dynamic motivational speaker.

How will Dietz, a man born without arms or legs, be able to swim a 10 km marathon swim? Through ingenuity and drive. The same way he has learned how to drive, cook, send emails and do nearly everything else others do in the course of their lives.

He will share his positive outlook and inspirational lifestyle at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference.

I will not run a marathon,” says Dietz with a humility and a reality that is inspirational beyond words. “But I can swim and do other things in water. My goal in life is to not let the challenges that I face in my life define me who I am as a person.”

But how does he do it? How would a person swim 10 km without arms and legs, hands or feet? What is unimaginable to the Olympic swimmers in London is second-nature to Dietz.

The first impression of Dietz is how personable, humble, and confidence he is. His charisma exudes from every pore and radiates with his smiles and facial expressions. Like many others, he receives a bit of help putting on Vaseline before he swims, but he also receives help putting on his goggles and swim cap. And like others standing on the shoreline waiting for the race to begin, he spends time joking with swimmers and friends, small talking with even the most non-stop chatterers.

When the race start approaches, he climbs out of his wheelchair and moves across the beach to the water’s edge. He gets assistance taping one swim fin to his right leg stub as he listens to the final race instructions. He is focused and attentive, straining like the others to eyeball all the turn buoys on the course. As the race officials get into position, he showers other competitors with smiles, nods and winks that are mutually exchanged. But a competitive seriousness underlies his friendly veneer as he confirms with others the best line to take and most optimal direction to head. But observers are overwhelmed just how different and difficult his challenge is as he stands at the ready on the shoreline.

While others swing their arms and stretch their legs, Dietz rotates his neck and twists his torso to warm up.

If his goggles are not on just right or his swim cap is askew, he just has to deal with it…as he has had to do with everything else in his life.

With minutes to the start, Dietz hops right up to the starting line, mixing it up with the other swimmers.

He knows his abilities and moves with confidence among the crowd of much taller swimmers. And similar to the other swimmers, many who are visibly nervous and others who are intensely competitive A-types, he preps himself for the final countdown and waits for the starting horn.

He glares out at the first buoy, mentally going over his race plan.

The start horn goes off and the pack rushes – runs – in the water. As does Dietz. He isn’t running, but he does rush in, just as intensely as the next athlete. He is at a clear disadvantage, but nothing is stopping him. Streamlined as can be, he splashes in the water head first and immediately rolls over on his back as he rises to the surface. Then like a finely tuned machine, Dietz begins to swim. Without limbs, his only mode of propulsion is to undulate like a dolphin, getting every ounce of energy that he can from his 12-inch leg stub and swim fin.

Dietz can’t do freestyle. He is not doing backstroke. But his style is the ultimate in core work. Coordinated and surprisingly quick, Dietz keeps moving his lower half up and down, and up and down, while trying to keep his head and shoulders as still as possible and his mouth above the water’s surface.

He occasionally rolls his head to the left or right to confirm he is on course. He also has a modified breaststroke that he uses sparingly to sight obstacles and buoys, but he makes his way along the course as others do. He just navigates a bit differently.

But as he says in preparation for his 10 km swim at the Swim Across America 10 km swim in Marine Stadium, “I swim for the same reasons others do: to challenge myself and to prove something to myself.”

The proof is in the pudding – Craig Dietz is quite simply a star of the open water swimming world.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones