Millions of fans watched American Apolo Anton Ohno win his sixth Olympic medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics last night in the sport of short-track speed skating.

As we sat engaged in the speed and bravado of world-class skaters, we saw numerous commonalities between short-track skating and open water swimming.

We watched the charismatic Apolo navigate sharp turns. We watched him encounter – and nimbly get out of – tight situations where he was boxed-in between his competitors. We watched him encounter and side-step physical contact. We watched him change his position during the race. We watched him sprint to the finish. And, yes, we watched him get a little lucky to get up on the medal podium last night.

Short-track speed skating is most definitely open water swimming on ice, albeit the strategies and positioning are played out at a much faster pace. Navigating turns, navigating around the competition, overcoming and avoiding physical contact, changing positions, making split-second decisions, sprinting to the finish and getting a little lucky on the ice is like competitive open water swimming situations on the high seas.

We delved a little more into the world of Apolo and learned he puts in long hours (like open water swimmers) training and sacrificing for the sport he loves and which anything-can-happen (a la open water swimming’s Expect the Unexpected).

When we watched Apolo in Vancouver, it was deja vu. As Apolo made bold passes and gracefully skated in, out, around and between a crowd of competitors, he reminded us of Dutch gold medalist Maarten van der Weijden as he weaved his way to Olympic glory at the inaugural Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Beijing on the last lap.

Like Apolo’s preliminary and semifinal races, Maarten also started at the back of the pack, then strategically worked his way to the front with a mix of creative thinking, patience and strong surges. And, around the final turn buoy and down the final stretch in the 2008 Beijing Olympic course – like Apolo in Vancouver – Maarten faced bumps, bruises and dramatic lead changes. Going into the last turn, both Apolo and Maarten found themselves behind the leaders with a need to make a final, bold surge to the front. In Apolo’s case, two of the three leading South Koreans crashed. In Maarten‘s case, the leading two swimmers went slightly off-course.

Two gentlemen, two Olympic champions in two completely different sports – both patient and strategic – making history with the same mindset, intense competitiveness and humble, engaging nature.

It was a pleasure to watch.

Copyright © 2010 by Open Water Source