Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde In The Open Water

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde In The Open Water

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde In The Open Water
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California. The women in the elite open water swimming world are photogenic. They are incredibly physically fit. They smile brightly and wave enthusiastically to the crowds before and after their races. They are eloquent and share their time with everyone from onlookers on the beach to young age-group swimmers. They hug each other after their races are over. They give great interviews with thoughtful answers. So nice. So gracious. So accommodating. So admirable. But when the gun goes off at the Olympic 10km Marathon Swim start, a dramatic change occurs. Friendships stop, racing begins. Adrenaline kicks in. Competitive juices flow in abundance. Intensity skyrockets. When the race begins, the female open water swimmers shed every veneer of innocence and turn into the ultimate athletic warriors. Their competitive spirit would make any NFL head coach, boxing trainer or boot camp sergeant proud. If the world’s media can capture the inner passion of these athletes and their intensity on television, in photos and in print, the sport will continue its grassroots branding and worldwide growth in popularity and participation. A handshake after the race is occasionally preceded by an elbow during the race. A smile on the awards podium follows a purposeful veering into a buoy. The transformation from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde in and out of the water is known by athletes, coaches and officials alike. Whether on a straightaway or around the turn buoys, the elite women race differently than the men who, although similarly intense, seem to give a wider berth to their fellow competitors (with some exceptions, of course). With increased focus by officials and judges along the course, the sport is wise to clean up the unsportsmanlike tactics employed by overly ambitious and unscrupulous athletes. Coaches are wise to educate their athletes that purposeful retaliation takes mental and physical energies away from swimming fast. As the Olympic year rolls around, competitors will walk to the start with a smile, waving to the crowds, hoping for the realization of their own Olympic 10km Marathon Swim dreams. Let’s hope it ends with a victory smile and is conducted in the finest show of good sportsmanship. Photo shows Micha Burden who was kicked so hard that her rib was fractured and her lung was bruised in a FINA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup race. Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association