Tuesday, March 20. 2007
Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Location: St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne
Theme: A Classic
Written by Steve Munatones
Sporting events frequently provide memorable moments and clashes that are re-lived over and over again by the athletes, their coaches, parents, families, friends and media. In classic match-ups, athletes go toe-to-toe with one another in stadiums, pools, tracks, gyms, rinks, roads and diamonds.
When the arena is a green, churning, murky, wavy, cold body of water, filled with huge stinging jellyfish, and athletes vying for every advantage over a 2-hour period, it is truly something to behold. Everything that open water swimming has to offer – both good and bad – was thrown at the 43 swimmers in the women’s 10K race today: Intense battles around every one of the 20 tight buoy turns. Tight pack swimming down the backstretch. Struggles to get over to the feeding pontoons in cross-currents. Nothing came easy and there was no let-up throughout the race.
Experienced observers thought every competitor looked like they had just swum a long 25K race instead of only a 10K. Jellyfish stings ran up and down the swimmers’ faces, arms and legs. Scratches, cuts and bruises were apparent on the backs of their fingers and knuckles. Gashes on the backs of legs and hips were the norm, all caused by swimming together in extremely close proximity to others over a 2-hour period.
“Everyone was just beating each other up. I have never experienced such a race before. It was horrible," said Germany’s Angela Maurer, one of the most accomplished, toughest and most experienced open water swimmers today.
Toughness and courage defined the efforts of Kalyn Keller and Chloe Sutton. Kalyn placed 9th in 2:04:10, twelve seconds behind the Russian gold medalist, while being in the hunt throughout the long race, going stroke-for-stroke against the finest women’s field ever put together for a FINA open water event to date. If not for only few instances along the course where she lost precious seconds, Kalyn would have been vying for a medal. But, this experience, however trying, will certainly bode well for her in the future.
The entire coaching community who saw the race had nothing but the highest respect for young Chloe whose goggles were knocked off less than 1K into the race. As her goggles sank to the ocean floor, Chloe knew her chances for medaling immediately vanished. Searching frantically for her goggles and crying out for help to the race officials, there was nothing much anyone could do. Fortunately, the incident occurred only 150 meters from the far feeding pontoon where the American coaches had an extra pair. One of the surf rescue lifeguards on a jet ski came to retrieve Chloe’s new pair of goggles, but by the time Chloe started again, the lead pack had a 3-minute advantage. Chloe put her head down and swam – all by herself, chasing the entire field, intent on getting back into the race. By the finish, Chloe had passed 14 other swimmers to place 28th in 2:15:00.
With the women’s 10K race done, the American men still have their 10K race tomorrow and their 25K race on Sunday. Both Mark and Scott now know well what is in store for them against this intense level of competition with everyone striving for the first Olympic medals in the sport up for grabs next year.
Interesting note 1 of the day: Some foreign swimmers used Vaseline and lanolin on their ankles and lower legs to help prevent their competitors from grabbing and pulling on their legs during the competition.
Interesting note 2 of the day: The American coaching staff used an 18-foot golf ball retrieval pole to provide Gatorade to the swimmers from the very high feeding pontoons.
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