111 top swimmers from 22 countries (Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine) will compete in this week's 11th European Open Water Championships in Dubrovnik, Croatia from September 9-14.
"It seems as if September is a good time for a European Championship," said LEN Secretary Sven-Egil Folvik at the opening press conference in Dubrovnik’s City Hall on Monday.
The 5K race will be held for the first time as a time trial. As in cycling, the swimmers will start in one minute intervals. "We had to do something to save the 5K event, because both the 5K and the 10K have always been tactical races which were decided in a sprint finish. There can’t be any tactical moves in 5K time trial. You simply have to swim at full speed from start to finish," explained Swiss Flavio Bomio, the Chairman of the LEN Technical Open Water Swimming Committee.
The 5K team event will also make its debut in Dubrovnik. Each of the 18 national teams will consist of three athletes, either two men and one woman or two women and one man. The teams will also start in 1-minute intervals. "The 3rd individual time is valid for the ranking. So the team has to work and to swim together," said Bomio.
The European Open Water Championships include 10K and 25K races with many Olympic 10K swimmers also participating, including gold medalist Larisa Ilchenko and bronze medalists Thomas Lurz of Germany and Cassandra Patten of England, and multiple-time world champion Edith van Dijk.
Thomas Lurz has won 6 world titles and will try to retain his 2006 title in the 10K. Tough competitors will come from Russia's Evgeny Drattsev (5th in the Olympic 10K) and Yuri Koudinov, Italy’s Valerio Cleri (4th in Beijing) and Simone Ercoli, as well as Greece’s Spyridon Giannitios and Bulgaria's Petar Stoychev.
The schedule is as follows:
September 9th: women's 5K (10 am start time) and the men's 10K (4 pm start time).
September 10th: women's 10K and the men's 5K (both start at 10 am).
September 11th: team 5K.
September 12th: open forum for managers, coaches, swimmers, officials and Technical Open Water Swimming Committee members.
September 13th: men's 25K.
September 14th: women's 25K.