Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Impossible Prediction


Sports fans love filling out their NCAA brackets and predicting what teams will meet in the NBA finals and NFL playoffs. But, these educated and emotional guesses are easy compared to predicting who will qualify for the Olympics in the world’s most pressure-packed race in open water swimming history: the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships.

The top 15 (or 16) finishers at the Seville 2008 World Championships will qualify for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. The Seville World Championships will be held May 3rd (women) and May 4th (men). An additional 9 (or 10) spots will be filled in the second qualifying swim to be held in the actual Olympic course in Beijing in June.

Anything can go wrong in open water swimming. Everyone plans for the unexpected.

But, my predictions and prognostication reasons are listed below. Everyone’s bold and/or anonymous predictions – and reasons why – are greatly welcomed. Given it a shot. Don’t be shy – give us your best patriotic, wild, insider, educated or outlandish predictions.

Don’t be afraid to criticize my predictions, but make sure to give reasons why.

TOP TEN MEN / WHY
1. Grant Hackett, Australia / Fastest 200 freestyler in field + double gold medalist in 1500 freestyle + physical size
2. Vladimir Dyatchin, Russia / Savvy racer + fast closing speed + 2007 world 10K champion
3. Thomas Lurz, Germany / High navigational IQ + can maintain any pace + 2006 world 10K champion
4. Chip Peterson, U.S.A. / Great endurance + can maintain composure and swim at any pace + 2005world 10K champion
5. Mark Warkentin, U.S.A. / Powerful swimmer + great patience + hitting peak
6. Mohamed El-Zanaty, Egypt / Powerful swimmer + physical size + incredible motivation (as the lone serious medal contender from a Muslim country)
7. Spyridon Gianniotis, Greece / Great endurance (15:03 in 1500 freestyle) + great closing speed (400 freestyle Olympic finalist)
8. David Davies, Great Britain / Great endurance (14:45 in 1500 freestyle) + composure in close races (2004 Olympic bronze medalist)
9. Valerio Cleri, Italy / Experience (multiple FINA World Cup winner) + closing speed + savvy racer (medalist at world championship races)
10. Petar Stoychev, Bulgaria / Most experience in field + motivation + savvy racer (multiple FINA World Cup and FINA Grand Prix winner)

Who is this leave out of the Top Ten? Alan Bircher of Great Britain, Maarten van der Weijden of the Netherlands, Rondy Gilles of France, Evgeny Drattsev of Russia, Ky Hurst of Australia, Christian Hein of Germany and Simone Ercoli of Italy. Clearly, on any given day, all these men are fully capable of not only qualifying, but also placing in the top three.

TOP TEN WOMEN / WHY
1. Larisa Ilchenko, Russia / Speed + endurance + track record of success (multiple 5K and 10K world champion)
2. Kirsten Groome, U.S.A. / Competitiveness + great endurance + closing speed
3. Cassandra Patten, Great Britain / Endurance + toughness + can maintain position around turn buoys
4. Poliana Okimoto, Brazil / Speedo + motivation (as the lone serious medal contender from a South American country) + savvy racer (multiple FINA World Cup champion)
5. Micha Burden, U.S.A. / Highest navigational IQ + strongest will in field (coming back from a broken rib in an earlier FINA race this year)
6. Melissa Gorman, Australia / Another great Australian distance freestyler with endurance + excellent speed
7. Britta Corestein, Germany / Extremely experienced swimmer (nearly always finishing in the top 5 in 5K, 10K and 25K races) + proven endurance + speed
8. Angela Maurer, Germany / Speed + race experience (2003 10K World Championship bronze medalist) + life experience (mother of a 4-year-old )
9. Edith van Dijk, Netherlands / Speed + race experience (2005 10K World Championship bronze medalist) + life experience (mother of a 2-year-old)
10. Jana Pechanova, Czech Republic / Always finishing in the top ten in the 5K, 10K and 25K races + excellent endurance + speed (8:39 800 freestyler)

Who does this leave out? Keri-Anne Payne of Great Britain, Martina Grimaldi of Italy, Rita Kovacs of Hungary, Karley Stutzel of Canada and Ksenia Popova of Russia. On any given day, all these women are fully capable of qualifying.

Expect the Unexpected.

Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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