The Comeback Of Brian Ryckeman

The Comeback Of Brian Ryckeman

All my best races are in the sea,” explains Olympian Brian Ryckeman. “There, I always feel in my element.”

He certainly looks comfortable and relaxed in the open water whether the conditions are calm or rough.

The long, lanky professional swimmer from Belgium swings his arms methodically over tranquil or turbulent seas in the same powerful way, anchored by a rock-solid core and strong kick.

However much he is in his element with the open water, he has a bit more of an issue with his human competitors. “Sometimes, when the course is too small for the number of swimmers, there is too much pushing and fighting which isn’t good I think.”

When asked about the 10 km race at the recent FINA World Championships, he explains, “In this race, I swam very easy the first two laps. I chose to swim on the back of the pack and not to fight too much in order to save power. Going into the third lap, I very easily moved to the front, but I exploded a little bit due to the fighting [that was necessary] to keep my place in the front of the pack.”

In reflection, he described the outcome. “I think I went a little bit too soon. So I paid the price in the last 500 meters. I’m a light swimmer so it is difficult for me to hold position. Also, I like the pace fast from the beginning. I’m not that explosive, so if it is a slow race and if the last lap is 2 minutes faster [than the first lap] like it was in the 10 km in Barcelona, that is not ideal for me. But I can hold on pretty well if the pace is fast.”

Which is what he did in the 25 km race where he just was barely touched out by world champion Thomas Lurz of Germany. But his road to his silver-medal performance took an unexpected turn.

I was happy. In every competition, I perform well. All my races at world championships, I finished 4th and 5th (Rome), 6th (Melbourne), 7th (Shanghai), 10th (Sevilla) and 11th (Barcelona), and in Beijing at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, I was 7th. But at last year’s Olympics in London, my performance was a disaster. I wasn’t fit because of injuries in the last month. After my bad 16th-place finish [in the 10K], I lost confidence in myself. Everything went wrong over there. So I didn’t swim for 4 months, I thought about stopping.

But I eventually started swimming again. I started to train seriously again this February. So with that much training, I know I have much room for improvement in the future and I feel mentally strong again.”

It is great to see him back.

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