In the middle of London, in the midst of Hyde Park, in a lake built in 1730 by Queen Caroline, the world’s fastest open water swimmers will battle for Olympic gold. The 2012 London Olympic Games will showcase the sport of marathon swimming like never before.

Fans and television audiences will be able to zoom in on these incredible endurance athletes as they battle ten kilometers in a compact six-loop course. As the swimmers round the perimeter of the Serpentine, tens of thousands of fans standing 3, 4, 5 and even 6 people deep will ring the lake and cheer for their favorite heroes and heroines.

In the middle of these cheering throngs of patriotic fans, 25 men and 25 women representing the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and Oceania will swim at incredible speeds, bumping, drafting and surging for two hours. The pack will remain tight throughout the entire race. The physicality between the athletes will enthrall those with a close-up view.

Marathon swimming at the highest levels is not simply swimming long distances. At the elite levels, it is a mano-a-mano dual on various levels. Marathon swimming is a battle of the will where elbows are thrown and people are kicked. It is certainly not a race for the timid, but a competition where every tactical advantage, every physical contact between swimmers, every surge has a winner…and a loser.

The Olympic 10 kilometer Marathon Swim will consist of six loops of 1.6 kilometers followed by a short sprint to the finish. Athletes will meet their coaches at a feeding station along the course and will be provided hydration in a matter of seconds as they turn over on the turns and suck down drinks in a matter of seconds.

The athletes will ring the perimeter of the lake in a clockwise direction, keeping the turn buoys on their right shoulder. The athletes will start from a floating pontoon and will finish in a splashing frenzy into a floating finish gate. The difference at the end will not be minutes, it will not be seconds, it will be tenths of seconds. Photo finishes are the norm and winners are sometimes not known until the very last stroke.

The athletes will give it everything they have and will lay it all on the line. Each will have their own racing strategy, but each will know to expect the unexpected. They know who the gold medal favorites are, but they also know the story of Maarten van der Weijden – the Olympic 10 km Marathon Swim champion who stood atop the Olympic podium after overcoming a bout with leukemia.

Photo shows David Davies after his silver medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source