Friday, March 16. 2007
Date: Friday, March 16, 2007
Location: St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne
Theme: Fear Factor
Written by Steve Munatones
The Australian organizers told the 110 open water swimmers from 30 countries to expect a multitude of elements, including cold water, currents, wind and "aquatic wildlife". Despite the local's advice, very little could have prepared the American team for their morning workout today.
The wildlife included the Port Philip Blue Blubber and the Lionís Mane Jellyfish which were blown into the course area with a rare combination of wind and ocean currents. This "perfect storm" did not sit well with many competitors. Many teams did not even get in the water ... and some teams that did enter the warm just swam out to the starting dock ... screamed and quickly turned back around to shore.
But, the Americans faced their fears.
The two jellyfish types were big. Australian big. There were opaque white ones with big thick tenacles. There were brown ones with thinner tenacles. They were floating near the pier. There were washed up in the finish area. They were just sitting along the straightaway legs of the course. They were near shore. They were offshore. Some had washed up onshore.
But, fortunately, most of them were underneath the surface of the water, certainly out of reach ... but close enough and clearly visible to cause trepidation.
Similar to the more experienced and hardy teams like the Greeks, Russians and Italians,all the Americans got in the water and knew they had to get through the workout. Scott, Mark and Chloe did a practice swim around the entire 5K course with Coach Rose close alongside in an escort boat, while Kalyn and Leah preferred to be in shallower waters with Paul Asmuth swimming alongside. Scott, Mark and Chloe even swam through the thickest pod of jellyfish in the entire course. A few stings were experienced, but Dr. Jim Miller and trainer Jeremy Vail immediately treated the swimmers without problems. In addition to having a great source for conversation for years to come, the swimmers proven to themselves they are tough and are well-prepared for anything that may come their way on race day.
In the afternoon, the 5K and 10K technical meetings were also held. The swimmers learned that they will be diving off the feeding pontoon, selected in random order, at the start. In the menís 5K, defending world champion Thomas Lutz of Germany will be sandwiched between Americans Mark Warkentin and Scott Kaufmann, which should help all three get off to a good start and be competitive right around the first turn buoy.
Interesting note 1 of the day: Slight rain,winds up to 10 knots and cross currents (helping the swimmers on two legs and pushing against the swimmers on the other legs) are forecasted for race day on Sunday.
Interesting note 2 of the day: Paul purposefully brushed himself against the jellyfish, causing a sting, in advance of the swimmers getting in the water, just to make sure everything was fine.
Interesting note3 of the evening: A subsequent in-the-water scouting report of the course by Dr. Miller leads one to believe that the worse of the jellyfish onslaught is, fortunately, over.
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