There are many similarities between sports and life. Sports can teach you many important lessons, can excite you and inspire you. We have put together 5 swim races that will not only keep you on the edge of your seat, but are educational, inspiring and will leave you with a smile on your face. Pull up a chair, settle in and get ready to dive in with us.
Side note: we purposefully left Michael out of this. We think he’s had enough attention for one decennium. 😊
1. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway: Ledecky vs Titmus 400 freestyle @ World Championships 2019
This is a very exciting race. Ariane Titmus is the young buck; Katy Ledecky, the goddess of the pool. The lead changes hands twice. When Ledecky takes the lead at the 200 mark most people would have seen it as a foregone conclusion that Ledecky would win.
But she doesn’t. Titmus doesn’t panic when Ledecky moves easily past her. Titmus seems to give herself a moment to recover and plan the next attack that comes in the last 50 meters.
What we can learn from this race is that it’s not over till it’s over. It is a classic cliché but so true. Your mental strength and the ability to keep calm is crucial in races. Anything can happen and if you keep believing and focus on the basics you are going to be up there for the win.
We think that Titmus’ secret weapon was feeling the fear and doing it anyway – backing off, yet believing she could come back and win. Amazing race and win. Why don’t you try that in your next race?
2. Age is just a number – even in the SPRINTS! - Anthony Ervin 50 freestyle @ Olympics 2016
Gold at 35 yrs. old. A remarkable achievement for the oldest U.S. individual Olympic Swimmer in a decade. 16 years after his first gold medal he beat the reigning Olympic Champion and best field in the world to claim the biggest prize in swimming.
Anthony Ervin is his name. He retired early in 2002, after winning gold in the 50m freestyle in Sydney in 2000. He moved on with his life; playing in a couple of bands, going back to school and becoming a swimming instructor. Being a swimming instructor gave him a different perspective on the sport. Watching kids develop a love for the sport gave him newfound motivation to get back to the Olympics.
In 2011 he couldn’t resist any longer. The kids love had infected him. He started training with the Cal women’s team. He qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London and finished 5th. But he wasn’t finished. Four years later in Rio he came back and claimed gold.
What we can learn from Ervin is that taking time off from swimming and immersing yourself in other interests is important for personal and sporting growth. Balance is key.
Having fun is efficient. If you’re not having fun, then you may want to change things up. Play another sport in the off season is a great way to keep the swimming fire burning.
His secret weapon was having the experience from 2000 and the passion. The passion grew in the intervening years.
Note: He sold his 2000 Gold medal on eBay for $17000,00 and donated the money for aid relief to the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
3. Know yourself even if others don’t – Daniel Gyurta 200 breaststroke @ World Championships 2009
If you watch the video, you will hear that the commentators don’t mention Gyurta once until he touches the wall for victory. They should have. What can you learn from this race? Stick to your race tactics and don’t worry what people are or aren’t saying about you.
Daniel Gyurta should have been mentioned. He won Olympic Silver in this event in Athens in 2004 at the age of only 15. In Beijing in 2008 he came a disappointing 5th. He fell off people’s radar until this thrilling race in 2009. Gyurta was known for his blistering pace in the back- half of the race, last 100m. A slow starter he was way off the pace in this race touching 7th at the 100m turn. His pace in the second 100m was blistering.
He went on to win Olympic Gold in London in 2012. It wasn’t only his win that sealed his place in Olympic history. In Tribute to Alexander Dale Oen – a former competitor who had died suddenly a few months before the games - Gyurta offered a replica of his Gold medal to the family of Dale Oen.
His secret weapon was that he knew himself. He trusted in his ability to swim the second 100m better than the first. Use your training sessions to get to know yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Journal them. Work hard on both. Focus on those elements that will give you the biggest advantage in your swimming goals.
4. Against the odds, obstacles make you stronger: Bradley Snyder 100 freestyle @ Paralympics 2016
Bradley Snyder lost his eyes in Afghanistan in 2011. In 2012 he won a gold medal in the 100m Freestyle S11. S11 swimmers are blind or nearly blind and swim with blacked out goggles.
Not only did he have to learn to live with his new found disability on land, but also in the water. Take a look at his record-breaking swim and see how straight he swims. I know many swimmers who can see who would like to swim that straight with their eyes closed.
You may think you have problems and obstacles in achieving your swimming goals. There is no denying they are real, but are nothing compared to not being able to see where you are going. His secret weapon is that he keeps on going, stays positive and doesn’t let what he doesn’t have get in the way of what he can achieve.
While swimming gold in Rio, he broke the world record of 56.67s which had stood for 30yrs.
And in Tokyo 2021 he will be competing in two separate disciplines: swimming and Paratriathlon.
And he has prosthetic eyes the same colour as his sister Elyse’s eyes.
5. The importance of finishing – Ferry Weertman open water 10km marathon @ Olympics 2016
The race is two hours long. It’s worth watching it, or the 2 min summary in the link. Jarrad Poort led for most of the race and by the half way mark led by more than a minute. Jarred got caught by the bunch later. In the beginning when Poort flew off the front, the chasing pack stayed calm. Remember to stay calm even if you see a rival disappear off the front. Stick to your race strategy.
Also, the lesson here is don’t start too fast. You might blow-up.
With 200m to go there are six swimmers in line and almost half the field just behind them. Look closely at how they are drafting off each other. Ferry is sighting often to keep swimming straight. It’s a washing machine in there.
Finally, Weertman breaks away with Gianniotis and they sprint to the line. As you can see Gianniotis is given the win electronically as he clearly crosses the finishing line first with his timing chip. However, in open water competition swimmers are required to tap the board above their heads to claim their place. If you don’t hit the board, you are not placed.
Its harsh reality for Gianniotis. This shows you that keeping your wits about you and executing like you have practised pays off. Weertman shouldn’t have won the race but his very astute finishing gave him the victory.
Practice every aspect of your swimming and make it all great. One aspect is not enough to give you the edge on race day.
In the end
These 5 races are diverse and exciting and very entertaining to watch for different reasons. They give us valuable insight into our own approach to swimming. We can learn so much from the pros tactics, mistakes and victories.
You may not get the chance to swim in the Olympics but you sure as heck can train like it. Claim your personal victory every time you step up and compete.
Written by Michael Stolt