Eric Hedlin’s parents were beaming with pride when they left the deck of the Coggan Aquatics Complex in La Jolla following their workout with Wind-n-Sea Masters last week. Their son Eric, a graduate of La Jolla High School, had just won the bronze medal in the 800 free at the World University Games and they were on their way to Barcelona to watch him represent Canada in the open water events. Here’s a note his mother Catherine sent back to us sharing some perspective on the event and the venue:
The view from the stands are terrific for the start and the finish but don’t offer much of a view of the rest of the race. Fortunately, there was live streaming video on huge screens near the stands and a few locations along the course so we could see the lead pack. Many of us left the stands after the start and tried following on foot until the swimmers went around a turn out of sight.
Barcelona is doing a great job of hosting these championships and there were hundreds of spectators lining the harbor wall. A large screen had been set up to watch the leaders and there were a few traditional Catalan-style entertainments to entertain the spectators once the swimmers were out of view – Catalan drumming and glum-looking giants (made of paper mache’) doing a stately dance.
At the finish, the lead three, Mellouli, Eric, and Thomas Lurz, made a break out of the larger pack that had been together most of the race and sprinted to the finish. We could see that Mellouli had won but it wasn’t until Eric’s name flashed on the boards that we could see he’d come in second.
After the race, Eric walked with us to a pool nearby to do a cool down swim. There are a few pools in the area, designated country by country and sport by sport for the participants. On the way there, he told us a few things about the swim. It sounded to us like it was combat swimming. He said “I didn’t realize that everybody was going to do fist-swimming drills around the buoys” At one point, he thought he might have a bloody nose from a punch near one of the buoys but pressed on. He’d found Mellouli a couple of kilometers into the race and tried to stay on his shoulders the rest of the race. He sprinted when he sensed Mellouli making his move but Mellouli beat him to the finish.