Did you know the newest sport in the Olympics is open water swimming? The world's best open water swimmers will knock heads as they compete 10 kilometers around the Olympic rowing basin. The four-loop race, formally called the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, will come down to a frantic sprint where anything goes.
It could be said that the sport of open water swimming was initially sparked by Captain Matthew Webb who first crossed the English Channel in 1875. Since that time, 811 people have successfully swum the English Channel. Compare that number with the 2,436 people who have scaled Mount Everest 3,679 times since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first visited the peak in 1953.
The swimming events at the first Olympics in 1896 in Athens were open water races held in the cold Aegean Sea in October, including a 4-kilometer race. At the 1900 Paris Olympics, the athletes swam 7 different events - all downstream - in the Seine River.
There are over 200 open water swimming competitions in the U.S., ranging from the Waikiki Roughwater Swim (the inspiration behind the 2.4-mile leg of the Ironman Triathlon) to the 28.5-mile race around Manhattan Island that sells out in 90 minutes. In the U.S., it is estimated that 750,000 people do some form of open water swimming, whether it is for fitness or triathlon competitions.
There are another 200 major open water swimming competitions around the world, ranging from 17,500 people competing annually in the Midmar Mile in South Africa to nearly 4,000 people racing across the 12-mile Rottnest Channel in western Australia.
If anyone is interested in going to watch the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing venue is about 35 kilometers from the main Olympic Village and is closer to the Beijing Airport.
I apologize for the error. Do you know what the precise number is (as of July 2008)? The reason why I ask is because the individual who put together this database states that "811 individuals have swum the channel, completing 1185 crossings". You state that over 1000 people have crossed the channel. I would love to report the correct number at www.10kswimmer.com and www.10Kswim.com. Thank you very much.
It's a great addition to the programme.
It will do wonders for the profile of the sport, and has also had benefits for distance swimmers. David Davies, for whom the 1500m is almost a bit short, has said that the open water swimming has revitalised his career and stopeed him from going stale.
When you consider that the track athletes have the 10k, and the marathon to choose from, it is only right to have a longer event for the swimmers.
I'm definitely excited to be able to watch an open water event on TV. According to NBCOlympics.com, the women's event can be seen on USA's coverage that begins Tuesday night at 11 p.m. (PST) and goes until 3:30 a.m. The men's event will be in the same coverage time slot Wednesday night. Get those DVR's ready!
But I wonder, how is the competition going to be affected because the event is in the rowing venue as opposed to actual open water? Are open water swimmers used to such controlled environments?
The athletes are used to all kinds of environments, ranging from 55 - 85 degrees water, rough and smooth. Some events are held in lakes that are just as glassy as the Olympic rowing couse.
You can watch the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim live online at www.NBCOlympics.com at 8:55 pm ET tonight (Wed, Aug 20). Watch the world's top 25 open water swimmers go at it around 16 turn buoys all fighting for that elusive gold medal. The women's race yesterday was classic: 2 hours of hard swimming and the top 10 swimmers were only separated by 13 seconds.