Friday, October 30, 2009

It's The Water

Sometimes, we come across interesting tidbits of open water swimming history and believe it is worthwhile to share them with our global community.

At the V FINA World Cup race in 1996 in Lake Geneva, the American team of Jay Benner, Chuck Wiley, Bambi Bowman and Samantha Chabotar were being coached by Sid Cassidy, Rick Walker, Marion Cassidy Keen and Dave Thomas.

The 25K race was along a beautiful point-to-point course from France to Switzerland and the American team was staying in √Čvian-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva.

In preparation of the race, Dave (shown above) bought several cases bottled water for the swimmers and hauled the heavy cases of bottled water to his fourth-floor hotel room by the stairs. This bottled-water-gathering ritual is carried out by coaches, swimmers and support crew throughout the open water swimming world, especially before international competitions.

However, when the hotel manager noticed Dave dripping in sweat as he labored to carry the heavy cases up the stairs in the hotel, he informed him that they were in √Čvian-les-Bains, the home of Evian mineral water. Lo and behold, when Dave looked down at the labels on the bottled water, he smiled when he saw the Evian logo. The manager smiled and informed him, "That bottled water comes out of the tap around here."

After that realization and the 25K World Cup race, Dave sat at the shores of the beautiful Lake Geneva and was discussing the proposed plan to get open water swimming in the Olympics with Sid and Rick. While at the time the plan among the open water swimming community was to showcase the sport in a 10K format in a rowing basin was a radical departure from the traditional 25K race in lakes and oceans, it was the plan that Sid enthusiastically carried forth and promoted together with the Australians and FINA members taking the lead. Ultimately, the plan was accepted by the International Olympic Committee in October 2005 and the first Olympic 10K Marathon Swim was held in a rowing basin during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

That inspirational 10K rowing basin idea - outlined on a napkin - was certainly a key turning point in the history of open water swimming.

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