LONDON. August 9. TODAY will be the greatest women's open water swimming competition in history in terms of competition, global attention, and number of spectators. 25 of the world's fastest open water swimming women will race at 12 noon GMT in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.
Here is a look at the top-ranked female Olympic medal contenders and dark horses for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim.
This is how the top 10 female marathon swimmers are ranked headed into the 2012 London Olympics:
1. Keri-Anne Payne (GBR) 2:01:58.1 qualifying time
2. Martina Grimaldi (ITA) 2:01:59.9 qualifying time
3. Marianna Lymperta (GRE) 2:01:01.8 qualifying time
4. Melissa Gorman (AUS) 2:01:12.0 qualifying time
5. Cecilia Biagioli (ARG) 2:01:12.0 qualifying time
6. Poliana Okimoto (BRA) 2:01:13.6 qualifying time
7. Jana Pechanova (CZE) 2:02:13.8 qualifying time
8. Angela Maurer (GER) 2:01:15.1 qualifying time
9. Swann Oberson (SUI) 2:02:16.4 qualifying time
10. Erika Villaecija Garcia (ESP) 2:01:18.7 qualifying time
Keri-Anne Payne is the odds-on gold medal favorite in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. The two-time world champion stands head-and-shoulders above the field while serving as one of the most accomplished ambassadors of the sport. As an athlete, she is focused and hard-working. As a personable spokesperson, she can eloquently explain the sport in simple terms and profoundly describe what drives her to reach her goals. As the silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she uniquely combines beauty, brawn and brains. In the heart of London, Keri-Anne will take off on a sprint right from the start and will push the pace throughout the marathon swim. The hopes of Great Britain for a gold medal ride on the shoulders of this charismatic superstar.
Martina Grimaldi is a seriously minded Italian star of the open water. Friendly, focused and fast, Martina can handle the furious high pace of her rivals in the marathon world right from the beginning all the way through to the finish. Cold water, warm water. Rough water, calm water, the 24-year-old student will be near the lead of the pack throughout the race. She understands tactics and strategy, the strengths and weaknesses of her competitors. She can flat out swim in the backstretch and battle around the turn buoys. She has a closing sprint and she is not afraid of physical contact. With dreams of Olympic gold, the world champion for Italy is a good bet for Olympic gold.
Marianna Lymperta is a savvy veteran from Greece who will be taking her fourth trip to the Olympic Games. The multi-lingual extrovert understands the value of hard work and enjoys the pushing herself in her twice-daily workouts. She knows her decades of sacrifice and commitment are the foundation that can enable her to hear the Greek national anthem on the Olympic podium. She understands that August 9th in the Serpentine will present her best opportunity for Olympic gold after competing at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics. With a bright smile and warm personality, she thrives on pressure and will relish the spotlight in front of tens of thousands of spectators ringing the Olympic marathon swimming venue in Hyde Park.
Melissa Gorman has the potential to carry on the lines of greatness of her Australian swimming predecessors. From the shores of Down Under to the center of the Commonwealth, Australians have long demonstrated their freestyle prowess around the world. Tall and statuesque, outgoing and friendly, Melissa is a goddess of the open water world. Her ability to sprint, her competitive spirit and her well-developed stamina based on decades of hard work in the pool and oceans around the world is a enviable mix. Many insiders to expect to see Melissa's smiling countenance on top the Olympic podium.
Cecilia Biagioli of Argentina is another wily veteran of three Olympics. Coached by her brother, the quiet, seriously minded marathon swimmer is ready for worldwide glory in her fourth Olympics. The slim, tough-minded athlete is respectful of all the opportunities given to her through her hard work and aquatic dreams. She has the endurance to stay in the front edges of the lead pack and the speed to close fast after two hours of fast swimming. She has the unquestionable ability to squeeze past anyone in the field and pull off an upset that would make the marathon swimming-mad Argentina delirious with delight.
Poliana Okimoto is living her dream. Cautious at first when she was introduced to marathon swimming, she has now taken to the oceans, rivers and lakes of the world. A slender marathon swimming champion, she just finished outside the money at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Coached by her husband, she is friendly and personable onshore. But she transforms herself to a competitive endurance machine once she hits the open water. Fit and fast, strong and savvy, the Brazilian star has what it takes to stand on top of the Olympic podium.
Jana Pechanova of the Czech Republic is a dark horse who has the potential to move up from her 8th position from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Always in the top ten and occasionally poking around the top five, she is only out of the top three by seconds. One great turn around a buoy, one fast finish to end her career and Jana may be able to have an Olympic medal hung around her neck. She will be in the lead pack throughout the race, dodging physical contact and surging when necessary. In a sport where athletes can expect the unexpected, Pechanova has the physical and psychological tools to surprise many.
Angela Maurer was barely edged out of a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The German mother and police officer has the guts and game to rectify the situation in London. The 35-year-old Wunderkind will make her presence felt throughout the race, around the turn buoys, and will be near the top at the end. While she lost out on an Olympic bronze by only a stroke four years ago, the 25 km world champion is most definitely ready to seize the opportunity in the Serpentine.
Swann Oberson of Switzerland is coming off of a 5-kilometer world championship victory at last year's world championship. Riding a hot streak into London, the tall and statuesque athlete is ready physically and psychologically to have the race of her life in the culmination of her long distinguished career. A two-time Olympian with a top ten finish in the 10 km marathon swim at the Beijing Olympics, the medal dark horse knows how to pace herself with the best of the world and sprint to seal the deal.
Erika Villaecija Garcia is coming into her own. A two-time pool swimming Olympian from Spain, she has turned her talents and sights to the open water swimming world. With a steely mind fortified with stamina developed by hours and hours of swimming every day, Erika has the tools – speed, endurance and strategy – to surprise many and fulfill her long-held Olympic aspirations.
There are the Olympic medal favorites and contenders, but the open water swimming world knows to expect the unexpected – and there will be surprises.
Courtesy of Open Water Source