Courtesy of The Athlete Village, Long Beach, California.

One of the most fascinating races that we had the privilege of watching over the years was the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games rowing basin located in Long Beach, California.

It was the subject of the first Global Open Water Swimming Conference back in 2010.

47 men and 40 women started in the water with gondolas of parents and fans watching in the basin. They started shoulder-to-shoulder and the race came down to a shoulder-to-shoulder battle where Fran Crippen [shown on left] and 2-time Olympian Chloe Sutton emerged victorious.

2012 Olympian Alex Meyer pushed the pace during the last loop of five loops in the flat-water course. He later said, “It was tough, coming down to the finish.” After he took off with 2 km to go, he had the lead until the last turn buoy.

With 550 meters to go, Meyer was hanging onto a shrinking lead, but was still in command. However, it was the last 400 meters where the race culminated in a six-wide all-out mano-a-mano finish.

In a last 400 meters, Meyer and Crippen were joined by 2012 Olympian Andrew Gemmell, 2005 world champion Chip Peterson , 2012 Canadian Olympic bronze medalist Richard Weinberger and Joe Kinderwater were shoulder-to-shoulder, six-peak kicking, sprinting and slamming into one another as the pace went from fast to furious.

With 200 meters to go, Peterson took about 30 sightings to get his bearings straight and then took off [seen on the far left of the six-wide pack above]. His trademark kick boosted him into the lead as the group slimmed down to a five-wide. But his strategy played right into the hands of Crippen known as the fastest closer in the business. Crippen swam immediately to Peterson’s right, seemingly clipped to the hip of Peterson in his draft and gaining the extra boost that he was looking for. After he moved up the torso of his rival from North Carolina, he moved slightly to the right giving him extra separation so Peterson would not reverse draft him. Now parallel with Peterson, but with momentum on his side, Crippen gained the upper hand and had the advantage that he sought.

Men’s Top 15 Results:
1. Fran Crippen (Germantown Academy Aquatic Club) 1:57:14.728
2. Chip Peterson (North Carolina Aquatic Club) 1:57:15.457
3. Andrew Gemmell (Delaware Swim Team) 1:57:15.840
4. Alex Meyer (Crimson Aquatics) 1:57:16.010
5. Richard Weinberger (Canada) 1:57:19.467
6. Joe Kinderwater (WSY Swimming) 1:57:21.545
7. Sergiy Fesenko (Azerbaijan) 1:57:24.431
8. Deni Cullom (Mission Viejo Nadadores) 1:57:27.445
9. Sean Ryan (Scenic City Aquatic Club) 1:58:22.266
10. Simon Tobin (Canada) 1:58:25.729
11. Csaba Gercsak (Hungary) 1:58:58.368
12. Arthur Frayler (Germantown Academy Aquatic Club) 1:59:11.388
13. Xavier Desharnais (Canada) 1:59:11.481
14. Harry Stephenson (Gulf Coast Swim Team) 1:59:15.064
15. Joey Pedraza (University of Florida) 1:59:52.588

The split times, taken by PowerHouse Timing, show the speed changes throughout the race (of Andrew Gemmell):

First 2 km loop: 23 minutes 22 seconds
Second 2 km loop: 23 minutes 44 seconds
Third 2 km loop: 24 minutes 5 seconds
Fourth 2 km loop: 23 minutes 46 seconds
Fifth 2 km loop: 22 minutes 30 seconds

A comparison between the men’s and the women’s races is most clearly shown in an analysis of the split times. While six men battled towards the end, four women – Eva Fabian, Chloe Sutton, Christine Jennings and Emily Brunemann – pushed the pace as the foursome over the five-loop course.

Unlike the men who played cat-and-mouse for four loops and then sprinted on the last loop, Fabian led the top pack for much of the women’s evenly-paced race. Sutton’s split times over the 10,000-meter course are illustrative of their pace:

First 2 km loop: 23 minutes 49
Second 2 km loop: 23 minutes 59
Third 2 km loop: 24 minutes 12
Fourth 2 km loop: 23 minutes 35
Fifth 2 km loop: 23 minutes 42

Throughout most of the race, Sutton lurked behind in fourth place, occasionally as far as four bodies behind Fabian. But with 1 km to go, Sutton shifted into higher gear and then pulled up along Brunemann, then Jennings, then Fabian. Like Crippen over the last 100 meters in the men’s race, Sutton had momentum on her side and never let up as her trio of competitors valiantly tried to keep up.

Women’s Top 15 Results:
1. Chloe Sutton (Mission Viejo Nadadores) 1:59:18.821
2. Christine Jennings (Unattached) 1:59:20.356
3. Eva Fabian (Greenwood Memorial Swim Club) 1:59:20.465
4. Emily Brunemann (Club Wolverine) 1:59:24.134
5. Emily Hanson (Club Wolverine) 2:03:14.095
6. Haley Anderson (University of Southern California) 2:03:20.812
7. Heidi George (Los Altos & Mountain View Aquatic Club) 2:03:24.112
8. Lauren Morford (Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics) 2:04:07.424
9. Micha Burden (FAST Swim Team) 2:04:32.066
10. Dawn Heckman (Trojan Swim Club) 2:05:23.854
11. Zsofia Balazs (Canada) 2:05:46.840
12. Tristin Baxter (Clovis Swim Club) 2:06:59.181
13. Nikki White (Indiana University Club) 2:07:00.870
14. Damaris Iriondo (Team FLA) 2:07:55.348
15. Rachel Naurath (NOVA of Virginia Aquatics) 2:08:22.092

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