Improbable, Incredible, Inspirational Open Water Swimmers

Improbable, Incredible, Inspirational Open Water Swimmers

At the close of the NBC telecast of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, NBC sportcaster Cris Collinsworth summed up his images and impressions of the Olympics and Beijing. In an eloquent tribute together with Bob Costas, Cris said that his most memorable moment was Natalie du Toit competing in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim.

Many fans, spectators and media representatives who saw that inaugural open water swimming race at the Olympics agreed, some with tears in their eyes.

In an unsurprising but illustrative statement of the amount of respect that open water athletes brought to the Olympic table, Olympic 10K Marathon Swim gold medalist Larisa Ilchenko said, “Natalie deserves a medal just for her Olympian efforts alone.”

And Cris and Larisa did not even address the improbably incredible and inspirational story of open water swimmer Maarten van der Weijden, the only cancer survivor to ever win an Olympic gold medal – in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim.
With all the confidence in the world, the Daily News of Open Water Swimming believes that the media attention on open water swimmers at the 2008 Beijing Olympics is only a precursor what will explode at the 2012 London Olympics. While the American media understands spectator sports; they take much longer to warm up to participatory sports.

For countries like the United States where the sport is picking up speed at the grass roots level, the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in London’s Hyde Park will be a game-changer. It will be open water swimming’s equivalent of Julie Moss staggering over the finish line at the Hawaiian Ironman in 1982.

Except the marathon swimmers are not going to be staggering at the finish – they are going to be sprinting in a mass pack and photo finish in front of tens of thousands of wildly cheering spectators.

Photo of Natalie preparing for start of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones