If we had to make a theoretical all-star relay of great male open water swimmers to swim across any of the Oceans Seven channels (English Channel, Catalina Channel, Molokai Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, North Channel, Cook Strait or Tsugaru Channel), it would be an extremely difficult choice.
With the theoretical team is limited to one man per country, the team would be a combination of swimmers with the highest levels of speed, power, endurance and navigational IQ, combined with an ability to adapt to any situation and meld with other athletes from around the world.
Starting off with Captain Matthew Webb as the Honorary Captain, we would fill out the 6-man roster with a coach and pace swimmers from the following historical luminaries of the sport with each man bringing a different set of talents to the team:
1. Maarten van der Weijden (Netherlands): the leukemia cancer survivor and Olympic gold medalist has the Right Stuff. He is both inspirational and down-to-earth. He can make people laugh and smile as well as dig down deep. His lead-off leg would be most appropriate.
2. Abdul Latif Abou Heif (Egypt): the Crocodile of the Nile was the most prolific professional marathon swimmer of the 20th century and could handle water cold, rough, warm and unpredictable as well as anyone in the history of the sport.
3. Oussama Mellouli (Tunisia): the 3-time multi-cultural and multi-lingual Olympic medalist can swim faster than anyone in the open water. For an hour sprint in the open water, his power and speed and mindset would be a tremendous addition and asset to the team.
4. Trent Grimsey (Australia): the English Channel record holder knows how to adapt to all conditions and sprint in rough conditions. His level of navigational IQ, professionalism and innate Aussie hipness would boost the team to unparalleled heights.
5. Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria): 4-time Olympian and world champion, Stoychev has the requisite speed and water knowledge to be an asset of the highest order. His speed and power do not deviate whether the water is cold and rough or warm and tranquil.
6. John Kinsella (U.S.A.): the Olympic champion and top professional marathon swimmer in the 1970s was known as The Machine. Tough as nails and analytical as required, he can handle any condition and any situation possible in the open water.
Coach: Gerald Forsberg (Great Britain): a brilliant administrator, his knowledge of the open water and commanding personality would meld the team into a finely tuned unit.
*Christof Wandratsch (Germany): the professional marathon swimmer and ice swimmer has the speed, knowledge, experience and navigational skills to help pace any swimmer in any condition.
*David Meca (Spain): the professional marathon and channel swimmer has speed to burn with the same level of world-class navigational skills.
*Philip Rush (New Zealand): there would be no element or situation that the famed channel swimmer could not handle and his speed, experience and team-oriented approach would only enhance the team’s abilities.
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