Open Water Swimming In Shanghai At The World Championships

Reporting from Shanghai.

Thousands of athletes, coaches and officials participating in the 2011 FINA World Swimming Championships are being whisked from the arrival gate at the Shanghai Airport through passport control and Customs. Treated like VIPs, their bags are handled as they are shuttled quickly on buses and cars to their host hotels.

Volunteers with smiles and an abundance of goodwill and genuine cheer greet them at every stop with multi-lingual hospitality.

At the Royal Tulip on Jinshan Beach Hotel, the world’s best open water swimmers who will compete in the 5K, 5K Team Trial, Olympic 10K qualification race and 25K are in their final stages of rest and preparation.

From over 40 countries, the athletes include teenage newcomers and fast pool specialists to cagey veterans and marathon world champions.

Shaved, tapered and hydrated, they will compete in a rectangle 2.5K-loop course just offshore with 2 feeding stations and an in-the-water finish with high-speed cameras to capture the photo finishes.

The races are held in 28C water that can get rough with steady sea breezes and irritating with occasional sea nettles.

With the possibility of facing turbulence, warm humid conditions and marine life, the athletes are preparing for the unexpected but, like open water swimmers the world over, they are hoping for good conditions on race day.

After years of training and preparation – physical, mental, strategic and logistical – their Olympic dreams will either be realized – or shattered – next week.

The world championship schedule is as follows. The television schedule will be announced soon, although online and broadcast coverage of all races in all countries is not guaranteed.

The women’s Olympic 10K Marathon Swim is on Tuesday, July 19th.

The men’s Olympic 10K Marathon Swim is on Wednesday, July 20th.

The new mixed gender three-person 5K Team Pursuit (5K Team Time Trial) is on Thursday, July 21st.

The men’s and women’s 5K individual races are (held separately) on Friday, July 22nd.

The men’s and women’s 25K marathon races are (held concurrently) on Saturday, July 23rd.

Among the men in the 10K race, the pre-race favorites to be among the automatic top 10 Olympic qualifiers include world champion Thomas Lurz of Germany, world champion Alex Meyer of the USA, FINA World Cup champion Chad Ho, FINA Grand Prix champion Petar Stoychev, Australian Olympian Ky Hurst, world champion Valerio Cleri of Italy, Spyridon Gianniotis of Italy and Evgeny Drattsev of Russia. However, at least a handful of swimmers from Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, Brazil, Slovenia, Mexico, New Zealand, France and others will undoubtedly be there right at the finish in the lead pack.

Ten athletes – both male and female – will automatically qualify so “winning” from the Olympic perspective is finishing in the top 10.

On the women’s side, the field is stacked with experience, guts and talent. The Brits Keri-Anne Payne and Cassandra Patten, the Americans Eva Fabian and Christine Jennings, the Brazilians Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha will be taking it out fast with Swann Oberson of Switzerland and Mariana Lymperta of Greece as well as Australian world champion Melissa Gorman, Martina Grimaldi of Italy and German world champion Angela Maurer.

Similar to the men, there will a few other qualifiers in the top 10 from any number of countries including Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Croatia, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Hungary, China and Argentina.

What is certain is to Expect The Unexpected – and the Daily News of Open Water Swimming will be there to cover it in text, photos, videos, tweets and commentary.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones