Top-class open water swimmers ready for the London 2012 10km Marathon Swimming Test Event

London 2012 Swimming

The public will get a change to watch world class swimmers including a number of World and Olympic medallists at the London 10km Marathon Swimming International in Hyde Park this Saturday, 13 August, part of the London Prepares Series and a test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The event, free for anyone to watch, takes place in the Serpentine inside Hyde Park and will feature some of the world's best marathon swimmers including the bronze medallist from Beijing 2008, German Thomas Lurz and the 10km gold medallist from the recent FINA World Championships in Shanghai, Spyridon Gianniotis (GRE), who was born in Liverpool.

In the women's race, the silver and bronze medallists from Shanghai, Martina Grimaldi (ITA) and Marianna Lymperta (GRE) come into the race as favourites.

Two British women will compete in the event, Rachel Williamson and Lucy Charles, both of who are from the British Swimming development squad. Keri-Anne Payne who has already qualified for the Marathon Swimming event at the London 2012 is currently resting, along with several others from the British squad, after the FINA World Championships.

At the end of the Technical Meeting, held this Friday, the FINA President Dr. Julio C. Maglione commented: “I want to say thanks to British Swimming and to LOCOG for their cooperation and their excellent work on the facilities at this venue, they are beautiful! We believe the conditions are excellent for the best possibilities of each athlete competing tomorrow. The representatives of the FINA Bureau and the members of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee are working to provide a great event for athletes from 20 national federations. I believe this test event will be a great success. I am confident that the 10km swim marathon next year will be one of the finest events of the Olympic Games."

Charlotte O’Neill, LOCOG Aquatics Manager was also happy: "Our team is excited to have you here.  Congratulations to athletes and coaches on a fantastic competition in Shanghai. We know that it has been a long season for you and we appreciate you being here to test our facilities and resources. We hope to provide assistance so that your performances will be the best possible. We also want your feedback on the course and on the event so that we can make it even better next year during the Olympic Games."

David Luckes, Head of Sport Competition at LOCOG said of the event: "The London 10km Marathon Swimming International will be used to test the Marathon Swimming course in Hyde Park as well as many of LOCOG's operations. We are delighted to be able to run such an event with a high level of international athletes and look forward to giving the public an opportunity to witness world class sport for free this weekend."

Luckes told members of the media that the London 10km Marathon Swimming International is one of more than 80 test events across 42 disciplines held in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. "This will be a fantastic dress rehearsal for everyone: we will test timing, scoring, results, as well as our workforce and volunteers. We are committed to provide excellent services to the athletes and coaches who will be racing on Saturday and learning how to do it even better next year."  

Luckes shared a history lesson: "Hyde Park was created at the insistence of Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II in 1730 and the Serpentine is a main feature of the park with a long aquatic history. Since the 1800’s there has been a 100m race held on Christmas Day, the winner takes home the Peter Pan Cup, first presented by J. M. Barrie, author of the children's tale."

Public wishing to watch the event can do so from the edge of the Serpentine, with some of the best views being on the north side. 38 competitors will line up on Saturday to tackle six laps of the 1.67km course. The women's race starts at 10am and the men's race starts at 2pm

Excitement among swimmers

Ky Hurst of Australia, bound for the 2012 London Olympics took to the waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park London on Thursday preparing for London’s 10km Marathon Swimming International event. "I visited Hyde Park several years ago and I always hoped to swim here someday. I never expected it to be for an Olympic medal,” said the 30 year old swimmer in London to gain experience on the six loop course that will be a shake-out for next year's Olympic Games.

"If I could pick anyplace in the world, I could not find a better location for the Olympic 10km than right here in Hyde Park," said Hurst after getting out of the 19.7 degree water on Thursday. "All my best results have been in cool water so maybe it’s just that I want to be the first to get out of the water," joked Hurst. "I have raced in London before and it was one of my best performances. Hurst is juggling several sports in the lead up to London Olympics. He has won four Australian Ironman titles, is a member of the Surf Life Saving Australia Hall of Fame, but is now focused on a spot on the medals podium next summer. "I will have about 20 weeks from my last Ironman event to prepare for the 10km race in London."

Last month in Shanghai at the FINA World Championships Hurst placed 5th in the 10km event, qualifying him for his second Olympics. He competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the 10km marathon swimming event and finished in 11th place. 

“I'm excited to be a part of this test event and to be in a position of selling our sport to the world. Open Water swimmers who race here next year will be counting their blessings," Hurst insists. "To be in Hyde Park with thousands of spectators watching us from all sides will be amazing, all eyes will be on us. With any luck we will be racing on a sunny day on Saturday. I'm sure there will be many people seeing their first open water race. I can't think of anything more perfect that racing on a sunny day next summer during the Olympic Games."

Swimming Australia Open Water Head Coach Greg Towle said while this weekend is a good opportunity to prepare, everyone is in the same position heading into London next year. “The best open water swimmers in the world are here and all are trying to work out just how to approach the race for next year,” said Towle. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys and really marks the start of their preparation for next year.”

Teammate Melissa Gorman will race in the women's 10km. “The course is six laps, which will make things very tight and this means we will really have to focus on our turns and changing direction,” said Gorman. "The real goal this weekend is just getting the experience of racing on the course, and working out the tactics for next year, knowing exactly what we are doing and the best way to approach the race.”  

Gorman qualified for selection by finishing fourth in the 10km at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai. Hurst, Gorman and Rhys Mainstone earned a silver medal in the 5km Team Event also in China, finishing 1.2 seconds behind the gold medallists from the USA.

Other reactions to the venue course:

Richard Weinberger (CAN): "It's super nice, I love it."

Andreas Waschburger (GER): “It's very clear to see the buoys, just a little bit cold."

Thomas Lurz (GER): “The markers are very clear, the course is good, but it is a little cold for me. I have swum in London at other open water events. In 2009 and 2010, I raced in the London 1 mile Great Swim at the Royal Albert Docks, winning both races."

Massimo Giuliana, Italian Technical Director (for 17 years): "The course is very beautiful but also technical with many buoys and tight turns. The left side is open, but the part of the course where athletes turn right may become very congested. It could be hard for making space. We must be prepared. The water temperature is 19 degrees which is good for us.”

Open water athletes won't be the only ones in the water this weekend. Although recreational boaters and swimmers will be cleared from the course, there will be plenty of fish and fowl in the Serpentine. The water quality is vigilantly maintained by the staff of Royal Parks of London who place a high priority on an environment suitable for the natural inhabitants of the Serpentine.

Women's Start List:  (Athlete's LAST NAME, first name, (COUNTRY CODE) - Year of Birth)

*GRIMALDI, Martina (ITA) - 1988

*LYMPERTA, Marianna (GRE) - 1979

*GORMAN, Melissa (AUS) - 1985

*OKIMOTO, Poliana (BRA) - 1983

*PECHANOVA, Jana (CZE) 1981

*MAURER, Angela (GER) - 1975

*OBERSON, Swann (SUI) - 1986


FANG, Yanqiao  (CHN) - 1989

JENNINGS, Christine (USA) - 1987

ARAOUZOU, Kalliopi (GRE) - 1991

HISTER, Linsy (NED) - 1988

LI, Xue (CHN) - 1986

FABIAN, Eva (USA) - 1993

TWICHELL, Ashley (USA) - 1989

TANG, Wing Yung Natasha Terri (HKG) - 1992

CHAN, Fiona On Yi (HKG) - 1997

WILLIAMSON, Rachel ( GBR) - 1995

CHARLES, Luck (GBR) - 1993

*Denotes women who have qualified to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games 10km event

Men's Start List: 
(Athlete's LAST NAME, first name, (COUNTRY CODE) - Year of Birth)

*GIANNIOTIS, Spyros (GRE) - 1980

*LURZ, Thomas (GER) - 1979

*BOLSHAKOV, Sergey (RUS) - 1988

*MEYER, Alex (USA) - 1988

*HURST, Ky (AUS) - 1981

*HERVAS JODAR, Francisco Jose (ESP) - 1981

*SAUVAGE, Julien (FRA) - 1981

*WASCHBURGER, Andreas (GER) - 1987

WEINBERGER, Richard (CAN) - 1990

FOKAIDIS, Antonis (GRE) - 1989

ZHANG, Zibin (CHN) - 1993

FERRETTI, Luca (ITA) - 1984

BRYAN, Chris (IRL) - 1990

GERCSAK, Csaba (HUN) - 1988

DE BONA, Samuel  (BRA) - 1990

LAVRENTYEV, Arseniy  (POR) - 1983

YUEN, Marcus Yat Ho ( HGK) 1994

LING, Tin Yu (HGK) 1993

KUDINOV, Yuriy (KAZ) 1979

*Denotes men who have qualified to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games 10km event