Open Water Swimming Throughout The 21st Century

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

It is mind-boggling, especially to Baby Boomers, to think that any young children or even teenagers in high school have a very high probability of living until the year 2100.

What these children and (probably a good number of) teenagers will see – on dryland and in the open water – during the 2020’s,, 2030’s, 2040’s, 2050’s, 2060’s, 2070’s, 2080’s and 2090’s will be mind-boggling…especially to those swimmers born before Lynne Cox swam across the Bering Strait in 1987.

In the the 2019 WOWSA Awards, luminaries in the sport of open water swimming were nominated and come from 24 countries: Brazil, Hong Kong, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, Romania, Bulgaria, Canada, Australia, UK, Mexico, India, Argentina, Italy, China, South Africa, Spain, North Macedonia, Russia, France, Israel, and USA. “And there could have been many, many more nominees,” said Steven Munatones. “There were so many incredible swims at every level and at every age during 2019. The world’s fastest men are now routinely swimming under 1 hour 50 minutes for a 10 km marathon swim and many more women are regularly swimming 10 km under 2 hours.

Florian Wellbrock won the 2019 FINA World Championships 10 km marathon swim in 1 hour 47.55 minutes with all the top 10 men within 5 seconds of the German gold medalist. Xin Xin of China won the 2019 FINA World Championship 10 km swim in 1 hour 54.47 minutes, similarly with all the top 10 women within 5 seconds of her.

In comparison, 11 years previously at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Maarten van der Weijden of the Netherlands won the gold model in 1 hour 51.51 minutes and Larisa Ilchenko of Russia won gold in 1 hour 59.27 minutes with only 13 women breaking 2 hours. At the 2019 FINA World Championships, 34 women broke 2 hours. Note: both event were held in a rowing basin or similar flat-water inland park.

So in 11 years time, we have seen times get faster on both the men’s and women’s side – over 4 minutes, the pace of the race is much quicker, especially the second half of the race – and there is every reason to believe that the times and pace of the Tokyo Olympics this coming August 5th and 6th will be even faster…even in very warm-water conditions.

The speed of what swimmers will be able to swim 10 km at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics or 2048 Olympics or 2092 Olympics will be unbelievable and unimaginable to those open water swimmers born before the 1970’s.”

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