Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks some as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
Swimming constantly drives home the huge significance of tenths, even hundredths of a second. But even in a sport where the tiniest details make all the difference, we rarely see a race as close as the one last weekend.
At USA Swimming’s Open Water Nationals in Miromar Lakes, Florida, the race for the final men’s spot in Kazan, Russia came down to not hundredths, but thousandths of a second.
In the featured 10K race, which determined nearly all the U.S. entries into this summer’s World Championships, Sean Ryan and Alex Meyer brought the race as close as it could get.
Northwestern pool standout Jordan Wilimovsky powered away with the win in 1:54:27.928 – that’s one hour, fifty-four minutes and twenty-seven seconds – clinching the first transfer spot to Worlds. But behind him, Ryan and Meyer showed down for the second spot, going stroke for stroke in a dead sprint after nearly two hours of racing.
As they crossed the finish line, the race was too close to call. In fact, though pool swimming typically only measures times down to the hundredth, open water swimming measures to the thousandth. And it was just 6 of those thousandths – a margin so tiny the sport of swimming as a whole almost never measures it – that separated the two.
Ryan got the edge, going 1:54:40.334 to Meyer’s 1:54:40.440 and earning the second U.S. entry in this summer’s World 10K Championship.
To Meyer’s credit, he will still go to Kazan and will have the opportunity to swim the 5K, 25K or both. But that second place position had huge ramifications internationally that will stretch out for the next two years.
Worlds in Kazan will serve as the first qualifier for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. If a nation places two athletes in the top 10 at Worlds, those two athletes will be nominated as the Olympic bids from that country. Based on the Olympic selection procedures, Ryan is now in line for an Olympic bid, provided he finishes in the top 10 this summer, while Meyer is very likely out of the running.
Almost never has so much hinged on so small a margin. It’s that constant knowledge that the tiniest fractions of seconds make all the difference that makes swimming such a compelling sport at its highest level. And this week’s Featured Swim of the Week drives home that point in a way perhaps no other race can.
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