I decided to do a bit more follow-up in today’s blog because I found out more swimmers went to the emergency room. I also wanted to provide a few more links and make a request to researchers.
First, several people sent me the Washington Post link noting that Fran was not the only swimmer to suffer heat illness. Two other USA swimmers went to the emergency room. Who knows how many swimmers from other countries suffered heat illness? If anyone knows, please drop me a note.
I read a comment by a top-ranked swimmer commenting that she thought no swimming event should be canceled for conditions that are too hot. She said something like “…the New York marathon isn’t canceled because it’s too hot…”
Yes, it’s true that running events are not canceled due to heat; however, the consequences of heat-related illness during the event are not the same in swimming as in running. If a runner gets overheated and faints on the course, the runner hits the sidewalk or pavement. More than likely someone will see them and offer aid. If someone faints in hot water, unless each swimmer has a boat assigned to them, the risk of drowning is significant.
In short, I disagree with her.
A few people asked about the link to the ABC interview – it can be found here.
The Race Rules and Regulations document for 2010 to 2013 can be found here - note this is a different document than the “FINA website rules” link.
To the researchers out there ~ can someone do a study on the affects of water temperatures above 82 degrees Fahrenheit on swimmers traveling at various intensities? I could not find any research on “hot” water swimming.
Before diving into information about the race, first I’ll tell you a bit about Huatulco [hwa·TOOL·co]. Prior to the trip, I had not heard of Huatulco, located within the state of Oaxaca [wah·HAH·cah]. Huatulco is approximately 150 miles north of the Guatemala border.
Huatulco is one of those coastal cities that have the ocean as a front yard and the mountains in the immediate back yard. It is worth noting that some of best surf waves in Mexico are in this area. Additionally, the Huatulco National Park contains the “most important coral communities of the Mexican Pacific”.
Large portions of the Huatulco resort area are located within an "ecological zone". Good portions of the area is protected from future development and is serviced by modern water and sewage treatment plants so that no waste goes into the pristine bays. Huatulco has been awarded the Green Globe certification, and it is the only resort in Mexico to receive this prestigious award. (Green Globe is the worldwide benchmarking and certification system for the travel and tourism industry across the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental management).
Beautiful beaches and mountains translated to a tough, hilly, technical bike course for elite racers. Most racers were happy that the race organizers planned a relatively flat run. The course was a two-loop swim, eight-loop bike ride and a four-lap run. The women’s race went off at 8:oo am and the men’s race at 10:45. As you can imagine, as the day went on, the temperature went up.
Short videos of the women’s and men’s races can be found on the ITU website.
I traveled to the race to help support the ITU Sport Development Team. The Sport Development program is rooted in Olympic Solidarity. My role is to help athletes with questions on issues such as pacing, nutrition recommendations, pre-race strategies for dealing with the heat and generally giving support to individual athlete goals. The athletes were:
- Place top 10 to remain on their home country’s funding program
- Place better than at any previous World Cup events
- Podium place
On race day, I am usually found arriving early at the transition area with the rest of the support team (Libby Burrell team leader, Jeff Donaldson bike mechanic and Diana Palmer athletic trainer/medical). I help with all pre-race issues and watch the swim start.
After the swim start I made my way to the hill on the bike course. I’m not sure how long the entire hill was, but the grade on the lower section where I stood had to be at least 15 to 18 percent. (It is similar to the steepest section of Old Stage Hill for those that have done Boulder Peak triathlon.) From that section, the course levels some before it kicks up again to the turn-around island. In the sweeping downhill section, riders were easily going in excess of 50mph. Do this eight times.
It was the hill that took the toll on racers. Athletes running a 39 x 25 had to be out of the saddle and powering up this hill to keep in contact with the pack. If the uphill isn’t enough to crush you, the high speeds on the winding downhill section would. I saw several athletes grabbing brake on that section of the course. Only those with good bike handling skills and a dare-devil need for speed were able to benefit on the downhill.
The women’s lead pack stayed mostly together. It was a different story for the men as Matt Charbot from the U.S.A. made a gutsy move about midway through the bike ride. Other riders tried to make a break, but his stuck. Ruedi Wild from Switzerland saw that the pack was not responding to Charbot’s move, so he broke too. By lap 7 of the bike, Charbot had built his lead to 3 full minutes on the main pack and 2 minutes ahead of Wild.
Equally as impressive, both Charbot and Wild held their leads on the oppressively hot run.
Congratulations to all the athletes that achieved their goals.
What I do as race support is but a small part in the overall scheme of this excellent ITU program. The ITU is coordinating a world-wide effort to grow the sport on multiple levels. This is an enormous task; but it is producing results – measureable results. Kudos to the ITU Sport Development program that is enriching a number of International Federations, their respective athletes and coaches around the world.
1) Athletes in the swimming pool at the Las Brisas resort
2) Athletes waiting for the pre-race briefing, left to right: Min Ho Heo, Emma Davis, Fabianne St. Louis, David Bardi (coach), Mehdi Essadiq, Leonardo Chacon, Michel Gonzalez
3) Libby Burrell, ITU Sport Development Director in the foreground with incredible Huatulco shoreline in the background.
There are just a few important races left to score the all-important points that determine which countries get three, two, one or no athletes on the start line for the Olympic Games.
The first important race occurs this weekend and is the 2008 Lisbon ETU Triathlon European Championships. This race is considered a Continental Championship race, earning more points than a World Cup event, less than a World Championship event. For the points breakdown, look here.
There will be no USA athletes at this race, because it is a Continental Championship event. The Continental Championship event for the USA was the 2008 Mazatlan PATCO Triathlon Pan American Championship event, held the same weekend as the Tuscaloosa trials race. Our top-ranked athletes (sans Shoemaker, who already has his Olympic slot) were all at the Tuscaloosa trials race. While the trials race was exciting, there were no ITU points awarded for this event. Points are critical, especially now, as you know.
Jesse, you noticed that Polyansky popped past the USA and we lost our third men's slot. Not only did he step past the USA, he also stepped past Switerland's Olivier Marceau. Now Switzerland becomes the country we need to beat out to be the last country to secure three slots.
Unfortunately for the USA, Switzerland and Russia will have the opportunity to score points this weekend, while the USA (Hunter Kemper, Matt Reed) and Australia (Brendan Sexton) will not.
Dmitri Polyansky (RUS - three country slots): 2500
Olivier Marceau (SUI - three country slots): 2452
Hunter Kemper (USA- two country slots): 2359
Matt Reed (USA): 2305
More than likely, Polyansky and Marceau will both pass Sexton this weekend for accumulated points at this weekend's race.
Polyansky is working from a base of thirteen races, only nine of which count in the total, so his lowest scoring race will be dropped. Marceau is working from a base of only five races, so any points he accumulates will count in his total.
The next race that counts is Madrid. All of the men discussed above are on the start list for that race. As discussed previously, watch for all of the countries discussed above to be positioning their bubble-points person (or people) for a maximum points score. For us, Friman (World Rank = 72), Fretta (WR = 114) and Seymour (WR = 181) should all be working for Kemper and Reed to help them get that third country slot.
Recall, athletes must be ranked in the top 125 in the ranking to be eligible for the Games.
The final race that counts is the World Championships in Vancouver on June 8th. All of the contenders will be there as well.
After the European Championships, I can give you a better guess at what needs to happen for the USA to get that third slot back.
If we do not get the third men's slot back by the end of the World Championships race (the cut off for Olympic ranking points), Big Matty Reed loses his Olympic slot. The final slot will be determined at the Des Moines race. Carefully read the USAT's Amended Selection Criteria at this link to see the selection process in print.
You can watch the European Champs as well as the Madrid race live on the ITU website, Tricast Live.
Do you plan to watch the South African Richard's Bay World Cup online at the ITU website this weekend? Perhaps you should?
In the world of getting Olympic slots for your country, recall from my column about the qualification process that only eight countries will get three men and three women on the start line at the Olympic Games.
Which countries can send three athletes per gender is determined by the "2008 Olympic Qualification" document found on this page. Just select that document to read all of the gory details.
What it boils down to, is Hunter Kemper is currently our third place, USA ranked male and his ranking points total 2359. Complete rankings can be found by selecting the "2008 Beijing Olympic Qualification Rankings" document, found here. Know that the USA is currently the last country to qualify three men on the start line for the Olympic Games.
The country closest to taking that spot away at this weekend's Richard's Bay World Cup race is Russia, specifically Dmitri Polyansky. His current Olympic rank puts him a mere 53 points away from Hunter Kemper. Looking at the scores he's accumulated in his recent races (419, 379, 293, 252, 238, 221, 167, 126, 126) you can see it is completely possible for him to replace his lowest score with a good performance in Richard's Bay.
I have not tried to do the math to figure out what place he needs to get to score that 53 points, but the race point system can be found here by selecting "ITU Points Critera".
If the USA men lose that third slot, the only way to get it back is by Hunter having a solid race at Madrid World Cup. That start list can be found here or the ITU BG Vancouver World Championships June 8th. World Championships is the cut-off date for the Olympic qualification process.
The last country to earn thee starts at the Olympic Games, for the men, depends on the following gentlemen racing for their respective countries. They are all separated by a couple hundred points, as of 4/26/08:
Brendan Sexton - Australia (2507)
Oliver Marceau - Switzerland (2452)
Hunter Kemper - USA (2359)
Dmitri Polyansky - Russia (2306)
Know that all of these guys are on the start list for the Madrid World Cup, found here.
Unless Kemper can perform well, and keep his points higher than the men listed above, we won't need to worry about qualifying a third man to the Olympics at the Des Moines World Cup race.