There are usually no more than 256 athletes who compete at the international level in the professional marathon swimming world. It is a small niche in the overall open water swimming.

So naturally the athletes are close-knit, friendly and respectful of each others time and commitment to the sport. At international competitions, they greet each other warmly knowing well what each of them has sacrificed and how each has trained to earn the right to represent their country.

There is a special bond, a tight camaraderie and deeply felt friendship among the swimmers. But when start guns goes off, friendship takes a backseat to competition. They all want that #1 on their backs.

And this is the way it will be in Setubal Bay where friends and teammates will go mano-a-mano to earn the right to represent their country at the 2012 London Olympic Games marathon swim.

Friends onshore, their mindset shifts to winning and beating their friends. One heads to London, the others go home to watch on television.

While there are dozens of teammate vs. teammate swim-off looming in Portugal, none is perhaps more watched than Britain’s Olympians David Davies and. Daniel Fogg. Davies told the Sun, “Daniel is one of my closest friends in swimming and best mates as well. We get on very well, talk often and are very close. We have a lot of things in common — it’s very much a friendly rivalry. It’s going to be a bizarre race day in Portugal because we will probably be rooming together. We enjoy going away together but only one of us will be going to the Games and the other won’t.”

In an unusual situation in Portugal’s Setubal Bay next week, the 2012 FINA Olympic 10km Marathon Swimming Qualifier will essentially be a swim-off between teammates from each country.

Other roomies battling the pack and each other include:

Damian Blaum vs. Luciano Sales Rubio (ARG)
Allan Do Carmo vs. Lucas Kanieski (BRA)
Petar Stoychev vs. Ventsislav Aydarski (BUL)
Richard Weinberger vs. Francois Xavier Desharnais (CAN)
Lijun Zu vs. Yuanpeng Lang (CHN)
Tomislav Soldo vs. Josip Culina (CRO)
Rostislav Vítek vs. Jan Pošmourný (CZE)
Santiago Enderica Salgado vs. Ivan Enderica Ochoa (ECU)
Mazen Aziz vs. Ahmed Gad (EGY)
Tin Yu Ling vs. Yeung Lee (HKG)
Csaba Gercsak vs. Gergely Gyurta (HUN)
Michael Dmitriev vs. Yuval Safra (ISR)
Nicola Bolzonello vs. Valerio Cleri (ITA)
Yasunari Hirai vs. Yuto Kobayashi (JPN)
Said Saber vs. Mohammed El Mehdi Essadiq (MAR)
Ivan De Jesus Lopez Ramos vs. Luis Ricardo Escobar Torres (MEX)
Marcel Schouten vs. Ferry Weertman (NED)
Kane Radford vs. Jonathan Pullon (NZL)
Arseniy Lavrentyev vs. Vasco Gaspar (POR)
Troyden Prinsloo vs. Chad Ho (RSA)
Stefan Sigrist vs. Jovan Mitrovic (SUI)
Igor Snitko vs. Igor Chervynskiy (UKR)
Erwin Maldonado vs. Johndry Segovia (VEN)

Nadine Williams vs. Zsofia Balazs (CAN)
Xue Li vs. Yanqiao Fang (CHN)
Alexandra Philippa Panayides vs. Irene Kyza (CYP)
Laila El-Bassiouni (EGY)
Ophelie Aspord vs. Corali Codvelle (FRA)
Wing Yung Natasha Terri Tang vs. Fiona On-Yi Chan (HKG)
Anna Olasz vs. Eva Risztov (HUN)
Rania El Abdi vs. Omaima Moufid (MAR)
Lizeth Rueda Santos vs. Alejandra Gonzalez Lara (MEX)
Maaike Waaijer vs. Linsy Heister (NED)
Charlotte Webby vs. Cara Baker (NZL)
Daniela Pinto vs. Angélica André (POR)
Jessica Roux vs. Natalie du Toit (RSA)
Anna Guseva vs. Ekaterina Seliverstova (RUS)
Olga Beresnyeva vs. Al’Ona Berbasova (UKR)
Haley Anderson vs. Ashley Twichell (USA)
Yanel Pinto vs. Carla Díaz (VEN)

Watch the swim-offs and Olympic qualification races live on Portuguese television here on June 9th and 10th.

Photo by Jim Miller shows Mark Warkentin and Yuriy Kudinov in a close battle.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source