Open Water Swimming: Olympic Hopefuls Head to Long Beach

Olympians, world championship and Pan American Games medalists will clash, bump, veer, surge and sprint at the USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships on June 4 and 6, 2010, in Long Beach, California.

Add Olympians and national team swimmers from Hungary, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, Azerbaijan and South Africa and the qualification race for the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Championships is going to be a classic test of endurance, strategy, and ability to withstand cold water.

The 5K and 10K races will be held in Marine Stadium in Long Beach, the rowing course built for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, because of its similar water conditions to the 2010 World Championships and the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim course at the 2012 London Olympics. The road to London truly does begin in Long Beach for open water athletes.

90 swimmers, including Olympian Chloe Sutton of Mission Viejo, NCAA champion Emily Brunemann, Pan American Game gold medalist Fran Crippen and world championship silver medalist Andrew Gemmell, will headline the 10K race on Friday, June 4. More than 125 swimmers will compete in the 5K race on Sunday, June 6.

Marathon Swimming

Marathon swimming was added to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and will be part of the 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics. Marathon swimmers, like their running counterparts, are known for their tremendous aerobic capacities, hard work ethic and cerebral approach to their sport where tactics, surges and sprints result in constant lead changes throughout the two-hour race.

However, unlike their land-based colleagues, the swimmers also deal with brute physicality as the swimmers inevitably—sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally—bump, kick and hit each other as they swim in large, tight packs until a furious finish that is often separated by only tenths of seconds. Similar to finishes at the Olympic-distance and ITU-format triathlons, years of training often come down to tenths of a second at the goal line.

The Women's Race Favorites

All eyes will be on the hottest pool swimmer of the season, 18-year-old Sutton, the dominant pool swimmer in the 2010 USA Swimming Grand Prix Series. She has won two 10K national titles and has the size, speed and endurance to out-swim and out-sprint anyone in the world—and is only getting better.

"I was trying to decide whether to focus on the pool or open water," said Sutton. "But I am now focused on just swimming well, both in the pool and open water. I swim really well in cold water and calm conditions—and that is what Long Beach has."

But Sutton will have to fight to regain her 10K title that newcomer Brunemann wrestled from her in the rougher, warmer waters of Florida during the 2009 nationals. Brunemann threw down the gauntlet a few weeks ago in North Carolina, where she swam away from Sutton towards the end of what was the third-fastest 1,500 of the world this year.

Kirsten Groome, a 2006 national champion and FINA World Cup champion, will also be in the mix. "She has been training very well, pushing Mazen Aziz, another FINA World Cup champion, in practice every day," said her coach Rick Walker. "She is looking good."

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