The Morning Swim Show, Oct. 4, 2011: John Dussliere Talks Open Water

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 1. OPEN water swimming is the subject of today's edition of The Morning Swim Show, featuring 2008 US Olympic open water coach John Dussliere.

Among the topics Dussliere discusses with host Peter Busch is the venue for the Olympic 10K swim next year, Mark Warkentin's brief comeback and the decision by USA Swimming to lower the maximum water temperature for domestic open water races. Watch the full show in the video player below and visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.

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Show Transcript: (Note: This is an automated service where some typos and grammatical errors may occur.)

Peter Busch: This is the Morning Swim Show for Tuesday, October 4th, 2011. I'm your host, Peter Busch in the FINIS Monitor. Today, we'll talk to John Dussliere. He is the Head Coach at Santa Barbara Swim Club. He was also the U.S.A Olympic Head Coach to the Open Water Team in 2008. John joins us right now in the FINIS Monitor from Santa Barbara, California. Coach, welcome to the Morning Swim Show. How are you doing?

John Dussliere: I'm doing great, thanks Peter.

Peter Busch: I want to ask you, you've got a good look at the 10k venue for Open Water next year in London. What do you think of it?

John Dussliere: Well, I think it's going to be groundbreaking as far as making it spectator friendly. So many of these races go out to sea and you don't know what's going on. You're relying on announcers and even if you're in the venue you'll have to create your own visual but here, you're going to be able to be in Hyde Park right up against the shore walking along with the swimmers. I think they have between four and five thousand seats that they're selling so that will be cordoned off but the rest of it is going to be open like a lake in a park.

Peter Busch: So it's essentially like NASCAR in the water.

John Dussliere: It really is. It's going to be.

Peter Busch: Okay, I like that idea because it's expected a friendly. Here is what I'm thinking though. All of these guys, all year long, all four years long in preparation for the Olympics, they're doing their events in the ocean. You know, you got to deal with tides and all that kind of stuff. Now you put them in a venue where there's really no waves, there's no tides. It's just like a pool just swimming round and round and round. Is that really going to give us the best, quote unquote, open water swimmer.

John Dussliere: I think the definition of open water swimmer is still up to the experience or the thought of the person thinking it. These International Open Water athletes, they're going to adapt to any, almost any course that you put them in, as long as it's a safe course for them and they're actually looking for this. I asked them in the post-race interviews in London at the test event, what do you think this is going to be for the sport and Thomas Lurz, he just lit up. He said, this is what we've been looking for. So, you know, it's a unique perspective. The old school probably says, oh, the waves aren't smashing into them, the elements aren't one of the competitors but this what I think our athletes are ready to really just compete against each other and against themselves in the venue.

Peter Busch: Will venues like this, and hopefully there will be more of them in the future, keep racers closer because there'll be last chances to break away?

John Dussliere: Absolutely. It's going to be tight quarters and it's going to be some turns that they're not used to so it's pretty valuable for the athletes to be at this race in August. They're going to be very close. They're going to — contact, is going to be a part of the race so positioning is going to be important. It's going to be important to be in the front or toward the front so that you're not stuck in a very narrow pack and get bumped into.

Peter Busch: Alright, so they've got this issue they've dealt with which is good, again, spectator-friendly, it's going to make this sport more popular. Now, we've got to work on this whole selection process thing. I don't know if anybody thinks this is a perfect way that we have it right now that you've got event a year before the race and you got to finish here to qualify. It's like the A cut, B cut thing for the NCAA, but I don't know, what do you think of it?

John Dussliere: I think that the most positive thing about it is that we know well enough in advance of a, you know, a somewhat convoluted system of picking our Olympians. I think FINA wants to rein in how many swimmers are in the race. So it maxes out at, 25 men and 25 women, you really can't open it up to all nations. You can give them an opportunity. They also want to really press the importance of their world championships which you know, that's also a very good debatable topic and we hope that doesn't spill into the pool too much. But in order to control this size of an event, especially in the venue that we're going to, it's probably the best it can be right now. I think the details of it; the locations that we're qualifying athletes, there are some athletes that are better in colder water, better in warmer water or just adaptable across the board. That's really three types of open water swimmers. Going to Shanghai in a very warm water venue, to qualify for London which is going to be a cold water venue, I don't know if we have the same group that would be there at the Olympic Games, if that makes sense.

Peter Busch: For the men, we have Alex Meyer, who is already qualified and he'll be the only American man swimming in the event. Women's is still open and we can have one American woman makes the team. If Las Vegas did odds on something like that, who do you think the odds-on favorite is to make the team for the women?

John Dussliere: You know, being put on the spot there is why I wouldn't give you an answer. I think we're in a place right now where you have some of our collegiate swimmers from all over the country that are really going to come in and maybe surprise some people, in Haley Anderson and a couple of girls from Florida and then you have the standbys, it's the ones that you know are going to be in the mix. Christine Jennings is going to be in the mix. Ashley Twichell is going to be in the mix. Eva Fabian is clearly going to be there at – you know, that's why I think there's five or six women that you can think of off hand but then we have to have another national championships to select another two women to take to another FINA selection event. So who those two are going to be is — I think it's going to be somewhere in that group that I've mentioned.

Peter Busch: You were a long time coach of Mark Warkentin. He was obviously a 2008 open water swimmer. I know he was kind of trying to do the comeback here but now that the Olympics is no longer an option, is he still going to keep swimming?

John Dussliere: You know, I know Mark's keeping in great shape. We're not working together any longer. He's going another direction and really pressing himself and working on it alone. He is, I believe named to the national team with his top six finish at the nationals so he has all those advantages. So, you know he was right there and he's right there in those races in third and fourth so …boy, I would hope to not see him be finished completely for this four-year cycle. You know, he has started a family and Rio is five years away so you know you really can't predict what he's going to do, but those world cup circuits are certainly available to him. I hope he takes advantage of it.

Peter Busch: Hey John, USA Swimming recently made their decision on limiting water temperature to 85 degrees, obviously all this in light of what happened with Fran Crippen. How did they settle on the 85 degrees temperature?

John Dussliere: You know, we took what was some already great work from the commission that came out of FINA that they gave us a temperature mark of 31 to use as a guideline and coming up with something lower, I think until we have science to back up what the human body can handle at its highest output of these elite athletes is probably the best thing that we can do. The debate started at somewhere in the 84s. We were really debating at it centigrade, they're easier numbers to deal with but that's the 28 degrees Celsius is what a lot of the athletes were asking to have set as the standard. Not just our American athletes but some of the rest of the top athletes in the world. Suddenly, we kind of started debate at that point and where do we find something that's fair for the events that are already being held in the U.S. and in the world. We certainly couldn't go to 28 if we're going to be fair to everyone and Alex on our committee gave some great feedback that you know, 28 probably is too low to set as a high limit. And following his guidance and following Dr. Miller's guidance, he really had the best facts for us and then you know, was just some great debate, we ended up with 29.5 which is 85 degrees. Some of the race hosts may have to adjust the dates that they host races where as their water warms in the summer. But you know, sometimes it's hard to do the right thing and we have to ask them to do that at this point until we get some hard science on water safety.

Peter Busch: Is there a minimum temperature?

John Dussliere: I believe it's 16 Celsius. I'm sorry; I don't even know that calculation. I've been living in the open water swimming world which is so international, we're using Celsius, but that is set. That's been set for years. FINA even has a low number that a race can't happen and I believe that is 16 degrees Celsius. So it was really the high temp that we needed to get a handle on it for the athletes.

Peter Busch: Well, as so often happened to takes a tragedy for us to focus in and look at the rules for any sport. We hope that this prevents any future disasters like what we saw with Fran Crippen.

John Dussliere: Yeah, you know, nothing good directly as when it comes from losing Fran in that individual case but the situation that happened is acting as a catalyst for us to really probably stand by the athletes we'd better than we have in the past.

Peter Busch: John, thank you very much for joining us in talking some open water swimming with us.

John Dussliere: Yeah, absolutely.

Peter Busch: Alright, that's John Dussliere, joining us from Santa Barbara and that is it for today's show. I'm Peter Busch reminding you to keep your head down at the finish.

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