Home' Scoop : Scoop 53 Spring 2010 Contents 124 scoop SPRING 2010
It’s one of Australia’s fastest-growing water sports
and you only need look at the sea of people taking
part in the Rotto Channel event to realise how West
Australians have taken to open-water swimming
out in the
open words Georgina Walsh
ut in the open water
you’re free. There
are no restrictions.
No lane lines. And
you can get into your
own mind... I found I absolutely loved the solitary
nature of the sport and the ‘man-against-nature’
mindset which is the key essential to becoming a
successful open-water swimmer.”
If anyone knows the thrill of the open water,
it’s seven-time women’s world marathon swimming
champion Shelley Taylor-Smith. When Shelley
became the first West Australian to swim the
English Channel in 1990, people thought she was
mad. Today, she is support handler and mindset
coach for 10 West Australians planning to do the
same thing next year.
Whether people are swimming for fun and
relaxation or to compete and excel, it’s a sport that
anyone can do. It’s about relaxing, clearing the
head and relishing the unknown. And the added
benefit of open-water swimming is that you are
doing it in a natural environment.
On a local level, competitor numbers in the
annual 19.7km Rottnest Channel Swim and other
open water events during summer speak for
themselves. Entries open on November 1 for
the 2011 WAtoday Rottnest Channel Swim, and
training is in full swing for the February 26 event.
So many people want to get involved that in 2006
organisers had to introduce a ballot system to limit
the number of swimmers because the event had
become so popular.
“2005 was a significant year with a large number
of entrants,” explains Rottnest Channel Swim
Association executive officer Stacey Herbertson.
“It was decided that the entrant number needed
to be capped to ensure the safety of all swimmers
involved.” Since then, the entrant number has
remained at its limit of around 2300 competitors.
So who makes up this field? It’s you. It’s me. It’s
the grandma who lives next door and the teenager
who lives down the road. It’s whole families.
It’s elite athletes. There are swims with more
participants but these are conducted in the closed
waters of bays, lakes and rivers, not through an
Olympic g old medallist and director/coach of
Kirby Swim, Bill Kirby, says swimmers can train
either on their own or in a squad. “It’s very much
an individual thing, depending on how motivated
and dedicated the swimmer is,” he says. “However,
in a group or with friends, swimmers will almost
always train more and harder.
“Sessions are perceived to g o quicker and if
you miss a session team-mates will let you know
you were missed and keep you honest,” he adds.
Bill sug g ests solo swimmers do 30-35km a
week in January and then taper off in February.
In the months before January, swimmers should
be training to ensure that when January comes
they can manage that weekly 30-35km without too
much fatigue or shoulder problems.
For those in teams or other open-water events
between 1.6km and 5km, Bill sug gests a weekly total
of nine to 15km depending on how serious you are,
with at least one session a week in the ocean.
“The most rewarding part of coaching
Rotto swimmers,” he says, “is to watch one of
your swimmers who really has no swimming
background at all make the 19km stretch and crawl
up the beach in front of family, friends and the
rest of the Rotto crowd.
“The feeling of accomplishment of making
the swim is awesome and for some swimmers is
the pinnacle of their sporting life that they get to
brag about for years and years. Everyone in Perth
understands the achievement.”
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