Like its counterparts in Australia, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, Spain and many other countries, USA Swimming invests in the development of its open water swimmers.
One of its most effective uses of resources is the annual National Open Water Select Camp where America's top young distance freestylers are selected and introduced to open water swimming.
Admittedly, after an intensive introduction to the sport, some of the athletes prefer to stick with the pool, but many athletes continue in the sport...and thrive in domestic and international competitions.
After the 2009 open water camp, we did a little analysis of the campers' performance at the 2009 World Swimming Championships Trials.
In the women's 5K race, won by 17-year-old Chloe Sutton of Mission Viejo Nadadores, the swimmers who have attended the camp placed 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 18th and 21st.
In the men's 5K race, won by Fran Crippen of Germantown Academy, the swimmers who attended the camp placed 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 21st, 24th and 25th. What is remarkable about the athletes' performance is that the 5K race was very tactical under difficult (i.e., wavy and difficult-to-navigate) conditions.
In the women's 10K race, won by University of Michigan's Emily Brunemann, campers placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 11th and 17th.
In the men's 10K race, also won by Fran Crippen, the campers placed 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 14th, 19th, 23rd, 25th, 31st and 33rd.
The windless 10K race was held under vastly different conditions than the rough water 5K race. Under glassy conditions, the campers utilized a variety of racing tactics and drafting methods they just recently learned to hold their own against the rest of America's best open water swimmers.
In the 5K race, 16-year-old Aja Van Hout of the Badger Aquatics Club made a strong move at the 3.5K mark in which she sprinted from the second (trailing) pack up to the first (leading) pack. This move in the middle of the race helped her secure a top 8 finish. "It was really fun. I liked it."
Similarly, Harvard University's senior captain Alex Meyer made a move at the end of the 10K race when he pulled up alongside the lead pack that gradually led to his qualification to the 2009 World Swimming Championships. "I knew that I had to hold on [in order to draft and be in position to qualify]. I am looking forward to swimming the 25K in Rome."
At the upcoming 2009 World Swimming Championships, the 7-member American team will consist of six campers (with Fran as the only non-camper). The team will include the following:
Fran Crippen (Germantown Academy) in the 5K and 10K*
Delaware Swim Team (Delaware Swim Team) in the 5K and 10K
Sean Ryan (Scenic City Aquatic Club) in the 25K
Alex Meyer (Ithaca Aquatics Club) in the 25K
Emily Brunemann (Club Wolverine) in the 5K and 10K
Eva Fabian (Greenwood Memorial Swim Club) in the 10K and 25K
Emily Hanson (Club Wolverine) in the 5K and 25K (shown above together with camp director Dave Thomas)
The USA will field one of the least experienced teams at the world swimming championships, but their speed, endurance and newly learned racing tactics will help make them very competitive. As they all look towards the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2012 London Olympics, their first step begins in Rome.
* Swimming World Magazine's Morning Swim Show posted an interview with Fran where he takes a look back at his swims in Florida and his swims in the future.
Copyright © 2009 by World Open Water Swimming Association