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25 km Open Water, not for faint hearted

July 27, 2013

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Easy to say: 10 laps of 2.5 km each. The toughest competition in the World Championships calendar will bring together 58 swimmers at Moll de la Fusta. Only the most skilled, strongest and fastest swimmer will claim the victory.

Not everyone can swim 25 km. It is natural selection somehow. The weakest swimmers will fall behind kilometer by kilometer, almost like going adrift. Only the most physically and mentally prepared athletes will make it to the finishing arch.

Athletes in this water marathon end up with an intense physical exhaustion after more than 5 hours swimming. In such a long-distance race, the strategy developed throughout the race is decisive in the victory. The plan starts at the kick-off. ‘It is a very crucial moment, as other there are lots of collisions with other swimmers, and that can have consequences later on in the race’, says Diego Nogueira, open water swimmer in the Spanish team for the last 6 years. This is the reason why many swimmers prefer to jump into water after everyone has done so.

During the race, it is vital to choose the right moves, as any unnecessary action may cost the athlete the medal. One of the key things to perfect in the 25-km race is how to pass the buoys. ‘There are different ways to pass buoys. Some swimmers find it easier to pass them by changing to backstroke’, Nogueira explains. It´s at these points that there is the most contact made between the water gladiators. Nobody wants to swim any extra meters so they try and keep themselves tight to the circuit boundaries.

Swimmers in this intense 330-minute event burn around 3000 calories, and that effort must be monitored by the athletes’ coaches. ‘They need to stay hydrated and to prevent low blood sugar they will experience as the time passes’, explains Mario Lloret, the doctor of the Open Water Spanish Team. Swimmers will be supplied with minerals, energy bars, or banana mixed with yoghurt up to 20 times during the event from the pontoons set along the circuit (2 in each lap). The type of boost they are given and the amount of time used for that is also decisive for a successful race. Good strategies are vital to survive.

The gold in Barcelona is only for the strongest, the fastest and the most skilled swimmer. Only the best will be honored with the World Champion title. Easier said than done.


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