Photo of Haley Anderson courtesy of Mitchell Haaseth of NBC.

Jonathan Strauss is organizing what is the make-or-break first step to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games podium.

America’s fastest open water swimmers – with a world-class mix of foreign athletes – will all be racing in Florida’s Virginia Key on May 3rd – 5th to compete in the 2019 U.S. Open Water Swimming Championships. These top athletes will compete in the qualification race for a few coveted spots for the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

If the athletes do not finish first or second in the 10 km race, there is no opportunity or backdoor to compete in the 2019 FINA World Championships.

But if they finish first or second, their dream to compete for their country at the Tokyo Olympics remains a possibility. The American representatives must finish in the top 10 in South Korea in order to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games 10 km marathon swim.

It is what many have been training and aiming for years.

The pressure will definitely be on, especially for the pre-race favorites like Haley Anderson, Ashley Twichell and Jordan Wilimovsky, all world champions looking for their first Olympic gold medal next year in the warm, calm, flat-water conditions of Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay.

Steven Munatones predicted, “Given their long-time success domestically and internationally, Haley, Ashley and Jordan look like almost a lock to qualify for the 2019 world championships. On the other hand, nothing is a given in a 10 km race where everything will not go to plan and the unexpected is most certainly expected.

Haley and Ashley will be pushed by 3 or 4 other swimmers including most likely Erica Sullivan and Katy Campbell.

But the men’s race for second among the Americans – after Jordan – is all entirely up in the air. David Heron, Michael Brinegar, Brendan Casey, Taylor Abbott, Brennan Gravley or someone else can capture the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.

But a few other athletes may throw a wrench into everyone’s plans. 2016 Olympic 1500m gold medalist Gregorio Paltrinieri from Italy will compete in the race with his eyes on another gold in Tokyo. The warm, flat conditions in Miami’s Biscayne Bay may be a precursor to what will occur down the stretch of the loop course at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games 10 km marathon race.

This could shape up to be a classic mano-a-mano sprint at the end between Jordan and Gregorio, two of the fastest 1500m swimmers in the world,” predicted Munatones. “All anyone can predict is that the race will shape up to a strategic race early. All eyes will be on Jordan. When Jordan starts to pick up the pace and take off sometime during the second half of the race, the rest of the top men will follow with Gregorio right there with him.

Same thing is expected to happen among the women. The top Americans will be challenged by Ana Marcela Cunha, FINA’s most decorated open water swimmer. The 27-year-old Brazilian was selected as the FINA Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year in 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. And what coaches see in Miami may be replicated in Tokyo
.”

Both on the men’s and women’s side, it will be interesting to see what race strategy the coaches come up with. Among the Americans, it will be a chess match between Catherine Vogt, Dave Kelsheimer, Ron Aitken, and Tyler Fenwick. All those coaches have several athletes who are expected to be in the mix. Because no one knows what they will ask their athletes to do in the second half of the race – expected someone to do something unexpected.

It is a given that everything will not go to plan, especially with Paltrinieri and Marcela Cunha chasing – or leading – the pack. Tthere will no doubt be some surprise finishes
.”

Strauss, the long-time race director of the popular Swim Miami event is organizing the races to be held at the Miami Marine Stadium. But even if America’s fastest swimmers do not finish in the top 2 places, there remain slots to represent the USA in the 5 km, 5 km team relay and 25 km events at the FINA World Championships.

It will be the first time in the United States that the top swimmers will be competing in a powerboat racing venue. Not surprisingly, the venue and setup is similar to the venue in Odaiba Marine Park at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Bryce Elser of USA Swimming wants to replicate as much as possible what the athletes will face in Tokyo – in terms of water temperature, water conditions and the overall layout of the venue,” says Munatones.

The Miami Marine Stadium, first built in 1963 and now used for concerts, is located in Biscayne Bay on Virginia Key.

The Abandoned Miami Marine Stadium from Golden Dusk Photography. The Swim Miami event includes 800m, 1 mile, 5 km, 10 km races for human athletes and the K-9 Krawl World Championships for dogs and their human partners.

For more information on the open water swimming national championships, visit here. For more information on Swim Miami, visit here.

USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming 10 km Female Start List:
1. Allison Bernier (16)
2. Ashley Twichell (29)
3. Erica Sullivan (18)
4. Hannah Moore (22)
5. Mariah Denigan (15)
6. Chase Travis (16)
7. Sophie Cattermole (22)
8. Julissa Arzave (17)
9. Brooke Travis (18)
10. Leah Degeorge (17)
11. Hayley Pike (17)
12. Anna Auld (15)
13. Paige Kuwata (14)
14. Selina Reil (17)
15. Claire Nguyen (18)
16. Haley Anderson (27)
17. Kathryn Campbell (25)
18. Emily Gjertsen (17)
19. Yara Hierath (17)
20. Rebecca Mann (21)
21. Kensey McMahon (19)
22. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil, 27)
23. Oceane Peretti (France, 21)

USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming 10 km Male Start List:
1. Zane Grothe (27)
2. Christopher Yeager (20)
3. Taylor Abbott (20)
4. William Roberts (19)
5. Brennan Gravley (18)
6. Theodore C. Smith (20)
7. Jack Collins (21)
8. Samuel Rice (22)
9. Joseph Gutierrez (18)
10. Dylan Becker (16)
11. Sawyer Grimes (17)
12. Jared Graham (20)
13. Andrew Matejka (18)
14. Jackson Carlile (15)
15. Mason Nyboer (17)
16. Kevin Jackson (25)
17. Simon Lamar (19)
18. Peter Thompson (16)
19. Aaron Apel
20. Nicholas Becker (19)
21. James Brinegar (19)
22. Brendan Casey (22)
23. Drew Clark (21)
24. Nico Hernandez-Tome (18)
25. David Heron (24)
26. Connor Hunt (16)
27. Tyler Jones (22)
28. Kenneth Lloyd (17)
29. Ivan Puskovitch (18)
30. Ryan Ratliff (19)
31. Cale Russell (19)
32. Kieran Smith (18)
33. Luke Thornbrue (18)
34. Jordan Wilimovsky (25)
35. Victor Johansson (Sweden, 20)
36. Felix Auboeck (Austria, 22)
37. Eric Hedlin (Canada, 26)
38. Jon McKay (Canada, 23)
39. Christopher Deegan (Australia, 23)
40. Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy, 24)
41. Mario Sanzullo (Italy, 25)
42. Gordon Mason (Great Britain, 20)
43. Domenico Acerenza (Italy, 24)

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