Courtesy of Swimming Canada.

Mark Perry develop Great Britain’s open water swimming program in the lead-up to the inaugural 10 km marathon swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He analyzed the situations, visited venues, studied conditions, and understood foreign competitors, developed racing plans and comprehensive budgets in his position.

Time moves on and so did Perry.

Perry was named Swimming Canada’s first Distance/Open Water Coach is part of Swimming Canada’s High Performance plans. Canada’s High Performance Director John Atkinson wants to improve Canada’s potential for medals in the open water coming 2020 in Tokyo.

In 2012, Richard Weinberger raised the bar for Swimming Canada when he finished fewer than 5 seconds from a gold medal, capturing a bronze after Ous Mellouli and Thomas Lurz.

Weinberger also finished 17th in the 10 km at the 2016 Rio Olympics while his teammate Stephanie Horner finished 23rd in the 10 km course on Copacabana Beach. The pair will represent Canada again at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Atkinson believes that young elite Canadian swimmers are not being developed in pool events 400 meters and longer. “As a younger swimmer, in my mind everybody should be swimming middle distance type events. As they mature and become more specific as they get older, they can move up or they can come down.”

At this weekend’s Flowers Sea Swim in the Cayman Islands, Perry is with 13 Canadian swimmers who are competing at the UANA Open Water Swimming Championships.

We are going to try and expose all our current distance swimmers to open water. We identified and selected a group of young athletes from the (Canadian Swimming Trials in April), so we’re already out there trying to find the next generation of people. I think there becomes a point much later in their career when they make a decision on which one they are going to focus on.

Swimming distance in the pool you have to be mentally tough. Then swimming distance in the open water arena is a much harder mental task. You have to cope with the weather, temperature fluctuations, wildlife. You don’t know what is going to be there until race day quite often.

Young swimmers should still be encouraged to try multiple strokes and compete at different lengths to build a solid engine. They can be exposed to open water when as they get older. In my experience, when people actually give it a go they kind of fall in love with it. The majority of people who (try it) actually do enjoy it. Whether they are any good at it is a different matter.”

Perry will be responsible for selecting and preparing Canadian open water teams at the Pan Pacific Championships, Junior Pan Pacific Championships, World Championships and FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cups. He’s also working with provincial sections, coaches, sports psychologists, massage therapists and technical staff to further support the open water swimming community within Canada. “One of the things we are going to try and do is be more technologically savvy, be more scientific in our approach to the race, actually be more professional in the way we look at the sport. I don’t think there is really anyone in the world who is looking at the sport in that way.

The idea is our athletes are the most informed and most knowledgeable athletes at the race. They get confidence from that. They understand exactly what the race involves, what the weather is going to be, where the tides are, what the currents are.”

Perry, who has traveled around the world throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and the America, knows the additional geographic and tactical allure of open water swimming. “The venues for open water are quite often iconic locations. [Open water swimming] is a much more cerebral challenge.
There are a huge number of different tactics that come into play. You have five or six different things up your sleeve you can turn to at any point during a race depending on what other people do
.”

On Day One of the UANA Open Water Championships, Canada won a gold and silver medal in the relay events.

The junior team of Alex Katelnikoff, Raben Dommann, Marit Anderson and Marianne Rheaume captured gold in the 2.5 km relay in 42:18.20, ahead of the join Peru/Brazil team.

The senior team of Nicholas Masse-Savard, Édouard Bélanger, Breanne Siwicki and Stephanie Horner won silver in the 5 km relay in 1 hour 3 minutes 27.52 seconds.

The idea was to learn open water techniques in [our] training camp in Florida] with athletes who we know can swim well in the pool, but are new to open water racing,” said Perry. “This was an opportunity to test those skills out. We made a few mistakes in this event, as you would expect with a young group, but it gives us some things to work on in the future.”

UANA 2.5 km Relay
1. Canada Junior Exhibition (Alexander Katelnikoff, Raben Dommann, Mant Anderson, Mananne Rheaume) 42:18.20

2. Peru / Brazil Junior (Rafael Ponce De Leon, Cristina Berrospi, Alanso Serida, Jouis Nina) 44:18.62
3. Cayman Islands Non-UANA (Alex Dakers, Ria Plunkett, Samantha Bailey, Jake Bailey) 46:19.12
4. Cayman Junior (John Bodden, Alizon Jackson, Liam Henry, Elana Sinclair) 46:26.64

UANA 5 km Relay Results
1. Peru Senior (Piero Canduelas, Gabriela Ccollca, Rodrigo Ramirez, Maria Alejandra Bramont-Ariss) 1:02:34.91
2. Canada Senior (Nicholas Masse-Savard, Edoward Belanger, Breanne Siwicki, Stephanie Horner) 1:03:27.518
3. Cayman Islands Senior Exhibition (Rory Barrett, Sarah Jackson, Jasmine Lambert-Wragg, Jonathan Keg) 1:15:27.069

Perry is shown above at the Midmar Mile in South Africa.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association