How A Risky Move Helped Wilimovsky Win at Worlds

What is it they say about never changing a winning pattern?

Unless maybe you’re Team Santa Monica’s Jordan Wilimovsky and you are so focused on achieving your goals that you are willing to make whatever changes you feel are necessary, two months out from your championship meet. In Wilimovsky’s case, that means being willing to tinker with your stroke to improve efficiency in the water.

Wilimovsky is no stranger to long distance swimming. Among other things, he represented the United States at the inaugural FINA World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships in Welland, Ontario in 2012, winning the US’s only open water medal (silver). That same year at US Summer Juniors he set the meet record in the 1500m free.

And while he’s had great success at Northwestern University (he was 2015 B1G champion in the 1650 and placed third at NCAAs), Wilimovsky has been singularly focused on one goal: making the United States Olympic Team in the 10K open water race. In order to make that goal a reality, he chose to take a year off of school to work with his coach at TSM, Dave Kelsheimer.

Wilimovsky’s determination makes him one of the hardest working swimmers in the pool. With two months until Kazan, he arranged to take his final exams early and then begin a grueling period of training. At LA Invite earlier this month, we noticed he had brought his stroke count down and was averaging 17-18 cycles per 50. For you technical folks, that means a stroke rate in the low 40s. If you compare that to videos of his swims at B1Gs and NCAAs, where his rate was closer to 45-48, you’ll see what a change that makes.

SwimSwam spent a morning in Santa Monica earlier this summer to talk with Coach Kelsheimer, Wilimovsky, and his teammate Brendan Casey. One of the things that came out of those discussions was something Kelsheimer referred to as “the aggregation of marginal gains.” That is, doing a lot of little things well, which adds up to doing The Big Thing well. At 2:01 in the interview, Kelsheimer explains, “Every day we’re going to work on getting to a better place, to becoming more efficient. The ultimate goal, I think, is to be not necessarily the fastest but the last one to slow down and in order to do that you have to be as efficient as possible.”

All those little things made all the difference today in Kazan, where Wilimovsky said he did exactly what he had planned to do: go out easy in the first 5K, build the second 5K, and bring it home over the last 1000 meters. The last one to slow down was the first one across the line.

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Awesome for the USA! Congrats to Jordan and Sean!

Have to ask, is Jordan wearing a woman’s swim suit in this picture?


Ha-ha good one queeny. No, its not a woman’s suit. Open water swimmers may swim team in a suit that covers their torso and has full leggings bdown to the ankles.


Why can open water swimmers till use full body suits but pool swimmers are not allowed too?


Probably because open water is a longer period of time in a typically colder body of water.

bobo gigi

I’ve picked Wilimovsky for the second American spot in the 1500 free next year. But is he only focused on open water now? Or will he try to do both? And is it possible to do both? I don’t know when the US open water olympic trials are held but if it’s one month before the pool trials, it can be difficult.


According to this interview, Wilimovsky is still planning to swim Olympic Trials and even Nationals in 2 weeks:

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swim/swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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