Standing on the sandy Copacabana beach with a crowd of both coaches and spectators waiting behind a fence line, I watched the elite swimmers looking surprisingly relaxed in the shade waiting to be called into the water. Strong winds and surf had only recently destroyed the start and feeding pontoons.
But the weather and conditions for was good and the excitement was building amongst the gathering crowds. I’m sure everyone reading this would have seen the races. Both were exciting, and while I personally feel that OWS still needs to work on its presentation to the outside world, but having a clearer view of the swimmers, communicating to spectators and media why penalties happen straight away and having more TV commentators who actually know about the sport. But these are small things and the events were thrilling.
My visit to Rio was to give a talk to race promoters from around the world, to expand the FINA 10km World Cup events along with the Mass Participation swims which now held alongside the elite races in Hong Kong, China, Abu Dhabi, Canada, Argentina and Hungary. This is a great time to be involved in open water swimming with the level of elite races increases with since its inclusion into the Olympics, but also the participation levels in open water swimming seems to be growing year on year.
Back in the UK, I held my own event Arena Chillswim Coniston, which is a full length of lake swim, 5.25 miles with 750 participants. The mixture of abilities and ages in a mass participation event is really wonderful and to go from the Olympics in Rio to the Lake District, but to see the same passion for the open water is simply awesome. The event fully supports the swimmers with transport to the start and from the finish, 4 feed boats on the way down, mile markers, water safety – I like to think that the event showcases what the sport of long distance swimming in safe and appealing way.
In the evening we had adventure swimmer Sean Conway, the first person to swim the full length of Britain give an inspirational talk about his adventures. The next day I was standing in the lake with two of my children as they braved the 16 degree water to swim out to a boat and back. Open Water swimming really does hold something for everyone.
Next up for me is working on a new event organised by the London Marathon called Swim Serpentine, held in Hyde Park which was the location for the London 2012 Olympic Marathon Swimming event. This will have over 3000 swimmers on one day and the British Open Water Swimming Championships the following day. I’m looking forward to catching up with some swimming friends at that event.