Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Swimming Like a Tiger

Sports fans around the world appreciate the physical gifts and mental toughness of Tiger Woods, the world's best golfer. On the final day of a golf tournament, there is no one tougher.

With crowds roaring with delight and heavy with expectations, going mano-a-mano against Tiger is always difficult for his competitors.

Professors Richard Rendleman and Robert Connolly wrote that players paired with Tiger in all rounds between 1998 and 2001 played nearly a half-stroke worse than usual. However, that differential increased to 0.857 strokes higher when paired with Tiger in the final round.

Some people call Tiger's intense focus a special killer instinct. Dr. Ken Ravizza, a noted sports psychologist, described Tiger's killer instinct, "To succeed in the same group with Tiger, you have to prepare for it. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable."

If there were a Tiger in the open water world, it would have to be of Russian descent. If Tiger's haven is the 18th hole of the final round of gold tournaments, then Larisa Ilchenko's haven is the final stretch in 5K and 10K marathon swims.

At the 2004 World Open Water Swimming Championships, Larisa outsprinted Russian teammate Ksenia Popova, one of the fastest American 800-meter freestylers, Sara McLarty and a world-class field in an urban river in Dubai.

At the 2005 World Swimming Championships, Larisa swept by American Margy Keefe and multiple world champion Edith van Dijk in the smooth-water rowing basin in Montreal, Canada.

At the 2006 World Open Water Swimming Championships in the Mediterranean Sea off Naples, Italy, Larisa won convincingly over Brazilian Poliana Okimoto and Russian teammate Ksenia in the 10K and over Poliana and Britta Kamrau of Germany in the 5K.

At the 2007 World Swimming Championships, Larisa characteristically out-sprinted teammate Ekaterina Seliverstova and Australian Kate Brookes-Peterson in the 5K battle in the rough seas off Melbourne, Australia.

The results were the same, even though the finishing times were closer in the jellyfish-strewn 10K over Great Britain's Cassandra Patten and Kate Brookes-Peterson.

At the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships, Larisa won from behind after trailing behind Cassandra Patten and Yurema Requena of Spain for most of the race. The outcome and strategy was the same in the 5K with a close victory over Russian teammate Ekaterina Seliverstova and American Chloe Sutton in the warm river in Sevilla, Spain.

At the Beijing Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, Larisa achieved her most exciting come-from-behind victory over a pair of British medalists, Keri-Anne Payne and Cassandra Patten.

Similar to Tiger's decade-long dominance, Larisa has won numerous championship races throughout the world during her streak from 2004 to 2008.

Like Tiger walking down the fairway heading to 18th hole, Larisa comes charging down the final straightaway with the eye of the Tiger. They both have an inner strength build upon years of training and a supreme confidence that they have done everything to prepare themselves mentally and physically.

Top photo of Larisa by Kevork Djansezian of the Associated Press. Bottom photo of Larisa (in middle) by Giorgia Scala of Deep Blue Media.


Anonymous said...

Just an FYI:
Professor Rendleman is now teaching at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Steven Munatones said...

Thank you very much for the update on the professor. We'll try to keep up with his fascinating research.

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