Olympic Swimmers Will Get Up A Little Earlier In The Heat

Olympic Swimmers Will Get Up A Little Earlier In The Heat

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Of all the possible issues surrounding the Tokyo Olympic Games from the COVID-19 pandemic (and all its variants) to security against terrorism and political protests, one more issue has been raised for the 50 male and female marathon swimmers in the 10 km event.

Tokyo 2020 announced the start time for the marathon swim events on August 4th (for the 25 women) and August 5th (for the 25 men) will now start 30 minutes earlier than previously scheduled. The official start will be at 6:30 am at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay, as agreed upon by the IOC and FINA due to the expected heat that may impact the performance and safety of the swimmers.

It is possible that the air and water temperatures will both be over 30°C (86°F) with high humidity – even at 6:30 in the morning. In addition to these difficult climatic conditions, the swimmers will wear very tight full body tech suits – largely colored black, so the external heat and increased internal body temperature will definitely impact performance,” pointed out Steven Munatones. “Add to this the fact that the course is a flat-water, easy-to-navigate rectangular course so the pace will be incredibly fast from the beginning. The women have always pushed the pace from the get-go, but with swimmers like Florian Wellbrock, Marc-Antoine Olivier, Rob Muffels, Kristóf RasovszkyJordan Wilimovsky, Gregorio Paltrinieri, Ferry Weertman, Alberto Martinez, Mario Sanzullo, and David Aubry all vying for a podium position, the men’s pace will also be blazing fast from the beginning. A fast pace under high humidity and a cloudless sky in very warm water without currents or waves has only one conclusion: the swimmers’ core body temperature will rapidly rise.

But all the athletes and coaches have known this possibility for years and they have all been preparing their athletes for this race of nearly two hours in extreme heat. Just like ice swimmers acclimate to the cold, the Olympic 10K Marathon swimmers have been long acclimating to the heat.

This race will be incredible to watch.

Additionally, the pack will be tight in a flat-water going around turn buoys. The FINA referees will have their hands full trying to maintain a fair and legal race among these great athletes, but there will be a lot of physicality, impeding with a high probability of unsportsmanlike conduct – either seen or unseen.”

The current FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee members [listed below] will serve as the race officials and will be responsible for making split-second decisions regarding warnings, red flags and yellow flags. “This is such a difficult position and such a heavy responsible for these volunteers on the TOWSC committee,” said Munatones. “Officiating an Olympic marathon swimming final is a nearly impossible task. It is like reffing the combination of water polo and short-track speed skating over a two-hour period. There is so much physicality that cannot be seen – either under the water like elbows and grabbing, or around the turn buoys in the scrum.

Sid Cassidy giving a yellow flag at the 2012 London Olympic 10K Marathon Swim

Ronnie Wong, TOWSC Chairman
Sid Cassidy, TOWSC Vice Chairman [shown above]
Sam Greetham, TOWSC Honorary Secretary
Britta Kamrau, TOWSC Athlete Representative
Abdul Monem Khamis Al Alawi, TOWSC Member
Abdulla Al Zahmi, TOWSC Member
Luís Baptista, TOWSC Member
Jorge Delgado, TOWSC Member
Bill Ford, TOWSC Member
Avelino Monteiro, TOWSC Member
Jean-Paul Narce, TOWSC Member
Andrea Prayer, TOWSC Member
Fernando Terrilli, TOWSC Member
Samuel Ufitimana, TOWSC Member
John West, TOWSC Member
Tanya Bogomilova, TOWSC Events Sub-Committee
Soh Yew Siang Soh, TOWSC Events Sub-Committee
Morgan Toro Martinez, TOWSC Events Sub-Committee
Noam Zwi, TOWSC Events Sub-Committee
Zouheir El Moufti, FINA Bureau Liaison

Photo above was taken by Javier Blazquez of American Christine Jennings, surrounded by German 2-time Olympian Angela Maurer on her left, Australian Olympian Melissa Gorman on her right, and Brazilian Olympic bronze medalist Poliana Okimoto behind her in the 5 km race at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships in Seville, Spain in an example of open water swimming physicality.

Copyright © 2008 – 2021 World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones