Alex Meyer is an athlete who clearly stands by his principles.
He emerged at the 2009 FINA World Championships when he wrestled the 25 km title away from Valerio Cleri, the 2007 world 25 km champion, in a grueling all-out duel. His career was clearly on the upswing.
In 2011, he returned to the World Championships as the defending champion. He swam well and qualified for the 2012 Olympics, but then the unexpected happened.
With the water rising above 31°C in the waters off Shanghai, the Harvard University graduate was not about to participate in a marathon swim…even if it was world championships.
Meyer had previously lost one of his teammates and best friends in a FINA race in Dubai. Because hyperthermia was a contributing factor to Fran Crippen‘s death, safety and exceedingly high water temperatures were a pressing issue for the world champion. Despite his physical capabilities, and high expectations placed on defending his 25 km title, Meyer voluntarily protested and withdrew from the race. In a world where selfishness often reigns, Meyer took a principled stand and gave up the opportunity to win his second world title. And he doesn’t regret this decision. Not then. Not now.
Dial forward to 2013 and Meyer is swimming well again after recovering from a broken collar bone in 2012. And the water temperature in Barcelona is within Meyer’s wheelhouse. And he is primed to show his talents. In Barcelona beginning next week, he has a full slate of races at the World Championships: the 10 km race, the 5 km Team Pursuit race, and the 25 km race.
The way he has been working out, the 25 km race is looking very good for his prospects. The Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of the races falls right into his racing savvy. The men traditionally go out slowly for the first 10-15 km and then gradually pick up the pace to its culmination on the last loop. Meyer knows precisely where to place himself and the strengths and weaknesses of his competitors. In other words, he is putting his Harvard smarts to good use.
But this year’s entrants is the men’s 25 km race is stacked with studs. Meyer will find himself surrounded with plenty of rivals with a whole lotta experience and savvy. From the Russia pair (Evgeni Drattcev and Vladimir Dyatchin) and the Italian pair (Simone Ercoli and Simone Ruffini) to the German pair (Thomas Lurz and Christian Reichert) and other assorted Olympians (Spyridon Gianniotis, Hercules Troyden Prinsloo, Brian Ryckeman, and Richard Weinberger), Meyer will undoubtedly find himself surrounded by some well-heeled company throughout the race.
With that collective level of experience and stamina, no one athlete is going to have the strength – or courage – to break away even as the pace picks up the last 10 km. Like a black star attracting everything in its neighboring vicinity, all these professionals are not about to let anyone get far ahead at any stage of the race. It will be more like a high-stakes poker game. As the race enters to final few loops, there will be increasingly high pressure to up the ante. The longer these swimmers stay in the game, the more painful it will be to lose.
And whoever emerges victorious will certainly demonstrate the speed, stamina, and smarts of a champion.
The entrants to the men’s 25 km at the world championships include the following:
1. Guillermo Bertola (ARGENTINA)
2. Luis Bolanos (VENEZUELA)
3. Martin Miguel Carrizo Yunges (ARGENTINA)
4. Badr Chebchoub (TUNISIA)
5. Igor Chervynskiy (UKRAINE)
6. Allan Do Carmo (BRAZIL)
7. Evgeni Drattcev (RUSSIA)
8. Vladimir Dyatchin (RUSSIA)
9. Simone Ercoli (ITALY)
10. Abdelrahman Esam (EGYPT)
11. Antonios Fokaidis (GREECE)
12. Spyridon Gianniotis (GREECE)
13. Philippe Guertin (CANADA)
14. Gergely Gyurta (HUNGARY)
15. Weng Jingwei (CHINA)
16. Vitaliy Khudyakov (KAZAKHSTAN)
17. Arseniy Lavrentyev (PORTUGAL)
18. Han Lidu (CHINA)
19. Thomas Lurz (GERMANY)
20. Rhys Mainstone-Hodson (AUSTRALIA)
21. Erwin Maldonado (VENEZUELA)
22. Alex Meyer (UNITED STATES)
23. Saleh Mohammad (SYRIA)
24. Jan Pošmourný (CZECH REPUBLIC)
25. Hercules Troyden Prinsloo (SOUTH AFRICA)
26. Christian Reichert (GERMANY)
27. Shahar Resman (ISRAEL)
28. Axel Reymond (FRANCE)
29. Simone Ruffini (ITALY)
30. Phillip Ryan (NEW ZEALAND)
31. Brian Ryckeman (BELGIUM)
32. Libor Smolka (CZECH REPUBLIC)
33. Igor Snitko (UKRAINE)
34. Bertrand Venturi (FRANCE)
35. Diogo Villarinho (BRAZIL)
36. Richard Weinberger (CANADA)
37. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA)
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