It’s a new day for open water swimming in the United States. Haley Anderson’s silver medal performance at the London Olympic games means that open water swimming has officially arrived on the main stage. Sure the USA has competed in this event at an international level for many years – and we’ve done very well: World Champions, World Cup winners and the nation was represented in the inaugural 2008 Olympic 10K swim. Yet now we have an Olympic medal in this event and that changes everything.
When most age group programs fire back up for the start of the ‘fall’ season more young swimmers and their coaches will be tuned into the prospects of the open water event. This can only mean good things for the USA distance program overall. But now we as a nation can begin to capitalize on this awareness by investing our time and resources into developing even better assets for open water swimming.
We need more events. We have so many amazing bodies of water in our nation – in both urban and rural settings – now is the time for local organizers to put together events that are fun and exciting for age groupers, senior level swimmers, and masters and triathletes. We could also easily dovetail open water pool events (box course without lane lines) at the end of many of our regularly scheduled swim meets.
It’s a good time to take our can do attitude and innovation to new levels and think outside the ‘lane’ lines about how we can be the undisputed best in all the technical and tactical aspects of open water swimming. There will certainly be openings to build upon our strong knowledge base in developing new training methodologies and protocols.
There’s no want for talent in our open water word – just look at the field of swimmers at our nationals – and each year more and more top flight ‘pool’ swimmers are joining the ranks. Haley is great swimmer and no stranger to open water success. She’s also an accomplished pool swimmer: the current NCAA champion in the 500 free and her time of 8:26.6 would have placed 7th in this year’s Olympic final in in the 800m free. Competition is the mother of improvement and it’s great to see the competitive talent base growing each year.
Looking toward the future it’s exciting to see the development of American open water swimmers. Our current national and junior national rosters are strong. Over the next 4 years these athletes, as well as those in the pipeline, will push each other to new heights. It’s not inconceivable to envision 4 medals for Team USA in Rio. Sure it’s a tall order – but why not dream big?
These are great days to be a swimmer in the United States – today the greatness of our elite programs blurred the line that once separated pool and open water on the biggest stage of all – the Olympics. I’m glad there’s still another race to come from London. Gotta love this sport!