Pacing And Positioning At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games – The Men

Courtesy of WOWSA, Tokyo Bay, Japan.

Pacing and positioning will be so important during the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Odaiba Marine Park at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Coaches from USA’s Dave Kelsheimer to France’s Stéphane Lecat will match wits with each other before the gun starts at the marathon swimming final, but once the race starts, all tactical and strategic decisions will ultimately be made by the swimmers in real-time.

In the flat water like Odaiba, I think the speed is going to be blazing fast – like nothing the sport has yet seen,” guessed Steven Munatones. “Even in the warm-water, high-humidity conditions expected in early August in Tokyo, the men will be flying around the six-loop course. There will only be 25 men in the race, but unlike other Olympic races, I do not think we are going to see one large pack of 20 or so swimmers. I think early on the fastest men and everyone else will separate themselves.

In an easy-to-navigate, easy-to-sight, tight course, no one can afford to be too far behind. Because the final will have many of the world’s fastest distance freestylers like Florian Wellbrock, Gregorio Paltrinieri and Jordan Wilimovsky racing against the world’s fastest marathon swimmers like Ferry_Weertman, Marc-Antoine Olivier and Rob Muffels, it would be almost impossible to catch up to these swimmers – especially given the big difference in speed between the top 10-12 men and the rest of the field. There will be too much of a gap between the 15th place and the lead pack, especially in the latter half of the 10 km race.

Navigational IQ will take a back seat to situational awareness and speed around the turn buoys – for every second counts.

A review of the positioning that the top men did at the 2019 FINA World Championships last summer in South Korea is telling.

Wellbrock was almost firmly entrenched in the lead pack. Even when he fell off from the lead, he was only 5.1 seconds behind the leader with more than 5 km left to swim in the race.

On the flip side of the equation, Paltrinieri made up more than 5 seconds in his last sprint with less than 800 meters to go.

Also, Weertman can back from the 58th place to finish 7th. In the early stages of the race, he was positioned 28.8 second behind the leader. This kind of gap is not going to happen in Tokyo. Weertman will be much close to the leaders. With his closing speed – that he clearly demonstrated in winning the gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics – his competitors should beware that the Dutchman is one of the pre-race gold medal favorites.

Pacing and positioning are going to be so critical to get on the podium at the Olympics. With each loop, the risks of being out of position and dropping off the pace become higher and higher. Conversely, the positioning within the tight loops as the race gets closer to the finish becomes more and more important
.”

Florian Wellbrock (Germany) positioning at 2019 World Championships (gold medalist)
Split 1: 1st in lead pack
Split 2: 3rd, +2.2 seconds behind leader
Split 3: 3rd, +2.0 seconds behind leader
Split 4: 1st
Split 5: 1st
Split 6: 1st
Split 7: 6th, +4.0 seconds behind leader
Split 8: 3rd, +2.1 seconds behind leader
Split 9: 4th, +5.1 seconds behind leader
Split 10: tied for 3rd, +3.8 seconds behind leader
Split 11: 2nd, +1.8 seconds behind leader
Split 12: 3rd, +1.7 seconds behind leader
Split 13: 2nd, +0.1 seconds behind leader
Split 14: 1st
Split 15: 1st
Split 16: 3rd, +1.6 seconds behind leader
Split 17: 2nd, +0.3 seconds behind leader
Finish: 1:47:55.9, gold medal time

Marc-Antoine Olivier (France) positioning at 2019 World Championships (silver medalist)
Split 1: 10th, +7.9 seconds behind leader
Split 2: 8th, +4.5 seconds behind leader
Split 3: 12th, +5.9 seconds behind leader
Split 4: 7th, +2.3 seconds behind leader
Split 5: 11th, +6.9 seconds behind leader
Split 6: 9th, +5.6 seconds behind leader
Split 7: 4th, +3.4 seconds behind leader
Split 8: 10th, +6.8 seconds behind leader
Split 9: 5th, +6.6 seconds behind leader
Split 10: tied for 3rd, +3.8 seconds behind leader
Split 11: tied for 5th, +5.3 seconds behind leader
Split 12: 5th, +4.3 seconds behind leader
Split 13: 4th, +1.9 seconds behind leader
Split 14: 3rd, +4.1 seconds behind leader
Split 15: 3rd, +2.5 seconds behind leader
Split 16: 4th, +2.3 seconds behind leader
Split 17: 3rd, +1.3 seconds behind leader
Finish: 1:47:56.1, silver medal time +0.2 behind leader

Rob Muffels (Germany) positioning at 2019 World Championships (bronze medalist)
Split 1: 4th, +4.7 seconds behind leader
Split 2: 5th, +3.5 seconds behind leader
Split 3: 5th, +2.3 seconds behind leader
Split 4: 12th, +6.2 seconds behind leader
Split 5: 24th, +12.1 seconds behind leader
Split 6: 7th, +4.7 seconds behind leader
Split 7: 20th, +11.4 seconds behind leader
Split 8: 6th, +5.0 seconds behind leader
Split 9: 6th, +6.8 seconds behind leader
Split 10: 6th, +4.5 seconds behind leader
Split 11: 8th, +7.9 seconds behind leader
Split 12: 2nd, +1.5 seconds behind leader
Split 13: 7th, +5.5 seconds behind leader
Split 14: 6th, +4.7 seconds behind leader
Split 15: 2nd, +1.8 seconds behind leader
Split 16: 1st
Split 17: 5th, +1.9 seconds behind leader
Finish: 1:47:57.4, bronze medal time +1.5 behind leader

Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy) positioning at 2019 World Championships (6th place)
Split 1: 2nd, +2.7 seconds behind leader
Split 2: 2nd, +2.0 seconds behind leader
Split 3: 11th, +4.5 seconds behind leader
Split 4: 6th, +1.4 seconds behind leader
Split 5: 3rd, +2.2 seconds behind leader
Split 6: 3rd, +2.2 seconds behind leader
Split 7: 3rd, +1.5 seconds behind leader
Split 8: 2nd, +0.6 seconds behind leader
Split 9: 1st
Split 10: 2nd, +1.4 seconds behind leader
Split 11: 3rd, +1.9 seconds behind leader
Split 12: 1st
Split 13: 1st
Split 14: 2nd, +2.2 seconds behind leader
Split 15: 8th, +6.8 seconds behind leader
Split 16: tied for 8th, +4.4 seconds behind leader
Split 17: 10th, +6.6 seconds behind leader
Finish: 1:48:01.0, 6th place time +1.5 behind leader

Ferry Weertman (Netherlands) positioning at 2019 World Championships (7th place) Split 1: 56th, +22.4 seconds behind leader
Split 2: 49th, +27.5 seconds behind leader
Split 3: 58th, +28.0 seconds behind leader
Split 4: 57th, +28.6 seconds behind leader
Split 5: 53rd, +28.8 seconds behind leader
Split 6: tied for 44th, +24.3 seconds behind leader
Split 7: tied for 30th, +16.1 seconds behind leader
Split 8: 21st, +14.4 seconds behind leader
Split 9: 18th, +18.3 seconds behind leader
Split 10: 14th, +15.5 seconds behind leader
Split 11: 11th, +11.7 seconds behind leader
Split 12: 12th, +12.1 seconds behind leader
Split 13: 9th, +6.9 seconds behind leader
Split 14: 9th, +7.2 seconds behind leader
Split 15: 9th, +6.9 seconds behind leader
Split 16: 7th, +4.3 seconds behind leader
Split 17: 8th, +5.0 seconds behind leader
Finish: 1:48:01.9, 7th place time +6.0 seconds behind leader

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