Who are better race car drivers: NASCAR or Formula One drivers? Who are better pilots: helicopter or jet pilots? Who can throw a ball better: quarterbacks or pitchers?
The swimming world has a similar issue - who is better in the water: pool or open water swimmers?
It is clear that the world's best marathon swimmers cannot beat world's best pool swimmers in the pool...and the reverse is generally true.*
But, the Tiburon Mile may be the best venue to determine the world's best athlete in the water. The race is not a marathon swim (i.e., over 10K), so the advantage does not go to pure open water swimmers. The race is not in a pool, so the advantage does not go to pool swimmers. Rather the distance and venue is a good compromise between pool and marathon swimming.
So, who might be the favorite in Tiburon Mile this Sunday? Smart money is on Oussama Mellouli, the 2008 Olympic 1500-meter gold medalist.
But, as many open water swimmers know, there are no lanes no lines, no walls..and no mercy.
The $10,000 winner-take-all cash prize is incentive enough, but the pride of beating Olympic medalists and world champions from 20 different countries may be the bigger honor.
Founded in 1999 by Robert C. Placak, the RCP Tiburon Mile annually attracts a wide range of swimmers between the ages of 13 and 80, but the eyes of the media and fans that line the banks of San Francisco Bay are on the elite competitors.
As a great tribute to his vision and passion for the sport, Placak has not only developed a well-deserved reputation for organizing the world’s most competitive open water race, but he has also helped raise over US$650,000 for local charities, including this year’s beneficiaries, Hospice By The Bay and the Special Olympics RCP Tiburon Mile.
Mellouli, the 2007 world champion in the 800-meter freestyle and 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the third-fastest time ever, will be facing a tough crowd, including:
• Andrew Beato, an Australian World Championship Open Water Team 5K specialist
• Evgeni Bezruchenko, Russian-born 2001 gold medalist at the World Championships in the 10K Open Water Swim and member of the 2007 Maui Channel Open Water Swim winning team and 2008 Trans Tahoe Swim winning team
• Brendan Capell, 2004 25K World Champion, 2007 2nd place RCP Tiburon Mile and highly ranked FINA World Cup and Grand Prix competitor
• Vladimir Dyatchin, Swimming World Magazine’s 2007 Male Open Water Swimmer of the Year, winner of the 2006 and 2007 RCP Tiburon Mile, multiple 10K World Champion
• Eva Fabian, 15-year-old who placed 2nd in 2008 USA Swimming National 10K Open Water Championships
• Sergey Fesenko, from the Ukraine, a three-time FINA World Cup medalist, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Team member, and 5-time NCAA All-American, 4th place in 2006 RCP Tiburon Mile and son of 1980 Olympic gold medalist Sergey Fesenko, Sr.
• John Flanagan, 4th at the 2001 World Open Water Championships and member of the 2006 and 2007 champion Maui Channel Open Water Swim team and 2004 Waikiki Roughwater Swim Champion
• Trent Grimsey, world-class Australian pool and open water swimmer and overwhelming winner of the 2008 Waikiki Roughwater Swim
• Kirsten Groome, 2006 USA Swimming 5K national champion and top 5K and 10K open water specialist
• Dawn Heckman, 14-time NCAA All-American, 1999 and 2000 Pan Pacific gold and bronze medalist and winner of the 2008 La Jolla Rough Water Swim
• Britta Kamrau-Corestein, multiple-time world and European champion in the 5K, 10K and 25K
• J.K. Koehler, Jr., NCAA 1650-yard freestyle finalist, Olympic Trials 1500-meter finalist, member of 2008 RCP Tiburon Milers’ Trans Tahoe Swim winning team
• Annika Lurz, German silver medalist in the 2005 100-meter freestyle world championships, silver medalist in the 2007 200 freestyle world championships
• Thomas Lurz, multi-time world and European 5K and 10K champion, placed 2nd in 2006 RCP Tiburon Mile after a photo finish with Vladimir Dyatchin, won the 2005 and 2006 World Open Water Swimmer of the Year and bronze medalist in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim
• Chip Peterson, gold medalist in the 10K and silver medalist in the 5K at the 2005 World Swimming Championships, gold medalist in the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships 10K, 2007 USA Swimming 5K national champion
• Erica Rose, 1998 world 5K champion, member of six World Championship teams, on the US National Team for the past eleven years, holds nine national titles and voted USA Open Water Swimmer of the Year four times
• Luane Rowe, Australian winner of the 2008 Waikiki Roughwater Swim
• Noa Sakamoto, 2004 Olympic Trials qualifier in the 200 and 400 freestyle, 2007 Waikiki Roughwater Swim champion and member of the 2006 and 2007 champion RCP Tiburon Milers Maui Channel Open Water Swim team and 2008 RCP Tiburon Milers Trans Tahoe Swim winning team
• Ekaterina Seliverstova, Russian silver medalist in 2007 and 2008 5K World Open Water Championships
• Chloe Sutton, 16-year-old winner of the 2006 and 2007 Tiburon Mile, two-time USA Swimming national 10K champion, 10K gold medalist in the 2007 Pan American Games and 3rd-place finisher in the Olympic Trials 800-meter freestyle
• Steffan Troxel, a Scholastic All-American and a NCAA qualifier in the 1650 from Indiana University
• Eric Vendt, 2000 and 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 400-meter individual medley, American record-holder in the 1500-meter freestyle (short course), holder of six U.S. National titles and member of 2008 Olympic Team
Additionally, members of the University of New Mexico, University of the Pacific, Stanford University and Cal Berkeley swim teams and Special Olympians from Ireland, Trinidad and across the USA are scheduled to compete.
On the media front, four-time Olympic gold medalist John Naber, three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines, Olympian skier Jonny Moseley and Lauren Costella will provide live race commentary in a special Comcast Sports Net broadcast in November.
Swimming World Magazine will cover the star-studded event in print and online with real-time updates provided by Twitter (by Steven Munatones).
9:00 am PT on Sunday, October 5th – catch it online, on your mobile phone, in print and on TV.
Photo of Sara McLarty, 2004 Tiburon Mile winner.