Why Open Water Swimmers Get Slimy, Slick And Slithery

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Right before the FINA World Championship races, the elite athletes get ready by putting on their skin-tight swimsuits, adjusting their goggles, getting body marked, putting on their transponders, and greasing up.

But greasing up is a bit different among the professional marathon swimmers competing at the world championships than greasing up was known among channel swimmers and amateur open water swimmers.

In the video before from the men’s 5 km event in Barcelona at the 2013 FINA World Championships, the competitors and their coaches are shown applying skin ointment and petroleum jelly like Vaseline. This enables them to become slimy, slick, and slithery so they are less likely to be negatively affect by physicality (i.e., get pulled back).

The swim got rough yesterday [in the 5 km],” recalled Rhys Mainstone who finished 19th. “I was leading into the last turn buoy. The pack went from an arrow formation to 15 guys across. Then the outside guys started to push in.”

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