Britain’s medal-winning performances and dominance of the marathon swimming events at the Beijing Games has kick-started a wave of interest in the newest sport to be included in the Olympic programme.
The subsequent enthusiasm and support shown towards open water, from those within swimming as well as the public at large, is something British Swimming Open Water Performance Manager Mark Perry believes will be a major factor in its continued success.
The British trio of David Davies, Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten took three of the six available medals from 10km events in Beijing and in doing so highlighted the vital work of a team of people that has put Britain at the very forefront of open water swimming.
As good as the summer of 2008 was for open water swimming, Perry knows it will take an even greater effort to retain Britain’s formidable reputation while looking to build on those results.
“We’ve come a long way in a relatively short time and achieved some wonderful results,” said Perry. “This is a testament to all who’ve been involved in the open water programme and the journey to Beijing, but in reality, this is just the start – there’s still so much more to be done and work towards.
“The success we saw in Beijing has drawn a great deal of attention to open water swimming from many coaches, athletes, the media and the public as a whole. It’s created a very positive attitude towards the discipline and sets us up perfectly in terms of preparations for London 2012.
Perry prefers to look at things in terms of distance swimming in general and not just open water. The programme’s philosophy is that every distance swimmer in Britain has the opportunity to swim an appropriate open water event and looks at who is swimming the 1500m and 800m Freestyle and what they would be like at 10km.
“A large part of the focus of the initiative is to work from the grass roots up,” explained Perry. “It involves meeting the different regions throughout Britain and liaising with those working with young talent, not only coaches but those working in the background. All involved in swimming need to drive this initiative forward.
“Training for the open water and the pool-based events should be the same,” explained Perry. “We’ve been very successful with our swimmers following pool-focused training regimes. The only additional training requirement they’ve undergone is in the tactics of the race and this is something that comes from exposure to competition.”
Source: The Amateur Swimming Association