Mark Foster recently wrote a thoughtful commentary on British Olympic 10K Marathon Swim silver medalist David Davies (shown at the end of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim) in the UK's Telegraph newspaper:
The article is entitled, David Davies should be making waves in open water, not the pool.
Mark (shown above) writes:
"David Davies will be back in the pool in Rome on Saturday morning when the heats start of the 1500 metres freestyle final. I wish he wasn't. I wish he was in a lake or in the sea."
"The likelihood is that he will make Sunday's final and then, at best, finish fourth. He simply doesn't have the speed to be truly competitive any more in an event that has effectively been turned into a long sprint."
"Yet this is the same swimmer who is one of Britain's outstanding gold-medal prospects at the London 2012 Olympics in the 10km open-water event. So what is he doing wasting his time in a swimming pool? Why isn't he out there gaining invaluable experience of the rough and tumble of marathon swimming?"
"To me, Davies is the Paula Radcliffe of the swimming pool. Time and time again we saw her run for 30 minutes only to be burned off by a group of Africans in the final lap. A brave effort but always glorious failure."
"But when she stepped up to the marathon, Radcliffe broke the world record and became a world champion. She owned the event."
"Like Radcliffe on the track, Davies lacks the basic speed to win over the shorter 1500m. If anyone wants to beat him, they need only sit with him until 50 metres to go and then blow him away in the final length."
"But like Radcliffe, Davies has the chance to make the longer event his own, to truly dominate the open-water discipline and create an aura before the London Olympics even begin."
"The Russian swimmer, Larisa Ilchenko, has done exactly that in the women's open-water event, winning the Olympic gold and eight world titles. Others are intimidated by her. That is where Davies needs to be."
"At the Beijing Olympics, he proved what an outstanding 10km swimmer he is by winning the silver medal, yet the gold would have been his if he had not shown his inexperience by taking the wrong line with about 400 metres to go."
"That is why he should have been competing in the World Championships in the open-water race at Ostia and not the swimming pool in Rome."
"There are precious few opportunities between now and 2012 to swim open-water races against truly world-class opposition. Davies needs all the experience he can get to learn his open-water trade. Perhaps he just can't get the swimming pool out of his system. He is, for certain, a hugely talented pool swimmer and he did, after all, win the 1500m bronze in the 2004 Athens Olympics."
"But the event has moved on since then, and Davies can no longer live with the speed of swimmers such China's Lin Zhang, Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli and Canadian Ryan Cochrane, who took the first three places in the 800m in Rome on Wednesday. Davies was fifth."
"I imagine the lure of competing in next year's Commonwealth Games in India, where there is no open-water competition, will persuade him to continue with the 1500m for the time being, even though Cochrane will also be there."
"But there are bigger fish to fry, and Davies needs to realise that a golden opportunity awaits him in London."
"He needs to forget about challenging himself over shorter distances and think of the bigger, and longer, picture."
While we completely understand Mark's position and wished that David had competed in the 5K and 10K races in Ostia at the World Swimming Championships, we know that Mark Perry and his coaching colleagues at British Swimming are extraordinarily focused on and committed to a long-term plan that culminates in Olympic open water swimming medals for Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
David's own strategic long-term plans to achieve his Olympic goals also seems reasonable. "I'm still ticking the boxes on learning the ropes in open water, and ticking boxes on improving my speed and strength."
David's coach Kevin Renshaw explained, "Really, open water this year is just to gain experience. We revisited the plan and while Rome was on the list, we feel that he's got enough FINA world cup races after the world championships. We're really excited about the progress he's made on speed and power, and that's been the priority."
Speed and power...all the open water swimming medalists in Ostia certainly had those attributes in abundance.
We also observed that the warm-water, rough, trapezoid-shaped sea course in Ostia bears no resemblance to the anticipated cold-water, flat-water, rectangular course in the Serpentine at the 2012 London Games.
While medaling in the 1500-meter freestyle in London has got to be deep within David's swimming DNA, the allure of swimming as one of the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim favorities in front of hundreds of thousands of British fans in the center (centre) of London must also be a factor pushing him on a daily basis while training.
With a swimming speed still significantly faster than his open water rivals, David's experience and abilities are especially suitable to the relatively-easy-to-navigate course and conditions in London.
Looking forward, we foresee David dictating the pace and influencing the Olympic 10K field in London despite his relative inexperience in the sport.
It will certainly be a great race.
Copyright © 2009 by World Open Water Swimming Association