Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Crossover: Blending Pool and Open Water Swimming

At the highest levels in open water swimming, crossover athletes from the pool have always done well. John Kinsella was an Olympic gold medalist and 1500-meter world record holder before he dominated the professional marathon swimming circuit in the 1970’s. Paul Asmuth got 4th in the 1650-yard freestyle at the NCAA Division I Swimming Championships before dominating the professional marathon swimming circuit during the 1980’s, Penny Lee Dean was a 6-time collegiate All-American before smashing the English Channel record, Lynne Cox swam under famed coach Don Gambril before setting records around the world’s oceans, Keo Nakama won 27 national pool swimming titles before becoming the first person to cross the 44K (27-mile) Molokai Channel in Hawaii are just some of these pool stalwarts who have performed well in open water swimming.

Even Duke Kahanamoku set his first world record in the open water when he broke 55.4 in Honolulu Harbor.

Nowadays it seems that many great pool swimmers are flocking to the ocean. Aaron Peirsol, the 7-time Olympic medalist, just put on his first Race for the Oceans event in Florida together with Rowdy Gaines. In addition to being a 3-time Olympic gold medalist and 4-time NBC announcer at the Olympics, Rowdy also annually announcing at the RCP Tiburon Mile with 4-time Olympic gold medalist John Naber.

Natalie Coughlin has participated in the Fiji Swims as have Shane Gould, John Konrads, Debbie Meyers, Murray Rose and several other Olympic medalists from 1956 to 2008.

During these last few months alone, Beijing Olympic hero Jazon Lezak participated in the Swim for Life, 14 Olympians participated in the Swim Across America swim in San Francisco Bay and Oussama Mellouli competed in the RCP Tiburon Mile. And, of course, three British pool swimmers, Keri-Anne Payne (200 and 400 individual medley), Cassandra Patten (800-meter freestyle) and David Davies (1500-meter freestyle) took 50% of the available medals at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim only days after competing in the pool events at the Beijing Olympics.

And they weren't the only ones: Petar Stoychev did his best time in the 1500-meter freestyle only days before finishing sixth in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. Others including Marianna Lymperta and Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece and Kristel Kobrich also competed in both the pool and marathon swims in Beijing.

The annual Flowers Sea Swim in the Cayman Islands has always attracted many Olympic pool swimming medalists, including Klete Keller, Chris Thompson, Anthony Nesty, Ian Crocker, Neil Walker, Rada Owen, Kristy Kowal, Brooke Bennett and Chad Carvin and NCAA Division I champions such as Ryan Lochte and Shaune Fraser.

And, now in advertising, it seems that the cross-over – both ways – between open water swimming and pool swimming has begun. Micha Burden, one of the top American open water swimmers and a pool swimmer with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, is now one of the more prolific models gracing the marketing materials of TYR.

Micha has also appeared elsewhere in the press and aquatic advertising.

TYR also used Pan American Games 10Kchampion and 2-time 800-meter freestyle champion Fran Crippen as the model for the TYR Tracer Light high-tech competition suits.

Pool to open water. Open water to pool. Pool and open water. The fusion has begun. And, at least in advertising and among many athletes, the borders between the two disciplines appears to be fading a bit.

Photos of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees a Penny Lee Dean and Lynne Cox are from the International Swimming Hall of Fame website. Photos of the Fiji Swims Olympians is courtesy of Fiji Swims. Photos of Micha Burden and Fran Crippen are courtesy of TYR.Copyright © 2009 by Open Water Source