Open Water Test Event: Blue Skies in Beijing

By Steven Munatones, Swimming World Special Correspondent

BEIJING, China, May 30. BEAUTIFUL blue skies and a stiff wind welcomed 28 women from 17 countries and 30 men from 21 countries at the pre-race meeting at the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim venue in Beijing today.

Sid Cassidy, the chairman of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee, opened the meeting to the anxious crowd. "You have a great opportunity to compete in a beautiful venue. You will enjoy it. Our Chinese hosts have done a wonderful job preparing this venue."

The venue is spectacular. The Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park is a huge facility to showcase the open water swimming event at the Olympics. The course is a simple rectangular course with two feeding stations at each end where coaches Paul Asmuth and Catherine Vogt will be stationed to feed Chloe Sutton of Mission Viejo Nadadores and Kirsten Groome of First Colony Swim Team. "The girls are ready and excited," said Vogt.

In addition to the unusual clear skies over Beijing, a strong wind has been blowing across the venue and is expected to continue over the weekend. The wind causes surface chop ("ankle slappers" in surfer lingo), especially on the longer legs that can be very irritating to the swimmers when they are heading into the wind and surface chop. Conversely, the ankle slappers can help propel the swimmers on the back half of each loop, especially as they sprint to the finish.

The water temperature is expected to be in the high 60s or low 70s with little humidity, nearly ideal conditions for the 10K swimmers. "The water clarity is good. The swimmers can see a cable under the water holding the intermediate buoys in place. It's going to be a great race," said Asmuth.

Before the start of the women's race, a minute of silence will be held in respect to the victims of the recent Chinese earthquake. The women's race will begin at 9:00 a.m. local time on Saturday or 9 p.m. ET on Friday in the U.S.