Secrets of open water swimming


Interview with legendary Russian swimmer, two-time world champion in open water, - Evgeny Bezruchenko.

Would you please say a couple of words about the sport that you are representing? Is there anything specific about open water swimming?

Well you know open water swimming is essentially the same as swimming in a pool, only without the turning around. This is because it takes place in the sea or a lake or a river, or something like this. Usually the distances are greater than what we see in pools as well. There are a few cases where the maximum distance in a pool will be 1500 meters and in open water the minimum distance in 5km which about three times greater. For marathon swimming 1500 and 5km are not great distances.

There are a number of swimmers who like to mix training in both open water and in the pool. Both Russian and foreign swimmers do this and I did this as well. Some on the other hand only specialize in swimming open water. Well basically open water swimming takes place as I said in lakes and oceans, anywhere that has suitable water, anywhere you can safely swim. The international rules for world championships, European championships, Russian championships etc for water temperature in open water swimming is from 16 to 30 degrees Celsius. There are some cases where swimming in colder water is allowed but this is mostly in commercial competitions. Americans for example really do not enjoy swimming in cold water, and there are no such commercial races in Russia so we don’t even have to go there. And in Europe the normal water temperature seems to be in the middle, around 20 or 22 degrees, somewhere there. This year the water at the World Aquatics Championship is very warm. It has been measured at around 29 degree but the swimmers are saying that it’s definitely 30 degrees. So obviously this is very warm for them and not very comfortable.

You mentioned that the water temperature can really have an influence on the efforts, so can you give us any specific examples or explain how exactly it does affect the swimmers when they are in the water?

You know swimming in hot water can have negative effects on sportsmen and swimmers. Take for example last year there was an American swimming in the United Arab Emirates in the world cup who died. The official version of how things transpired stated that he died of heatstroke. So we can see that hot water can be very dangerous. As for me, I personally preferred to swim in warmer water, for me it was more comfortable. Of course the weather has an impact on the water conditions as well as the tide. A lot of our Russian athletes like Vladimir Dyatchin who really prefers swimming in colder water, so it’s entirely possible that 30 degree water can have a negative impact on them.

So Mr. Bezruchenko, five races have already been held in Shanghai, and unfortunately we can be proud only of two bronze medals. So do you think that this is a good result for Russia or probably you are not very satisfied with this performance of the Russian athletes?

Well if we take a look at the dynamics of Russian swimming over the last five years we can see there is a big difference in the medal count. If you want to be more surprised we can go back ten years but I think that five years looking back is enough. We can see the amount of medals that we earned has fallen considerably. You could say that we would at least have a minimum of two or three gold medals as normal. We don’t really see these kinds of results anymore.

Mr. Bezruchenko, you yourself are a world champion, so obviously you know what it takes to fight and win in a race. In your opinion, looking over the performances of the Russian athletes, is there anything you can see or say to us, tell us about, maybe some mistakes they are making or some areas where they need improvement, maybe their tactics or psychology? Can you give us your opinion, please?

Well you know the guys who are swimming now like Vladimir Dyatchin and Ekaterina Seliverstova, Evgeny Dratsev have all already had a taste of gold as well as silver and bronze medals. Not only in Europe but in world championships as well. Also Vladimir Dyatchin has more experience than I do, they already know very well that this is a tough year with the Olympics coming. So people are not just competing at the world championships but they are competing in essence for the Olympics as well. In reality there could be a number of things happening from reworking techniques as well as trying not to show your full potential to the opponents. We can also say that maybe not all of the athletes are in 100% perfect condition and that next year they will be more ready for and in better shape for the Olympic Games. So, maybe it has something to do with this.

Mr. Bezruchenko, you have mentioned the fact that next year the Olympic Games will take place in London and unfortunately our ladies didn’t manage to earn Olympic licenses at this year’s World Aquatics Championship. So would you please tell us where they will be able to earn these Olympic licenses, so what can be done in order to receive the right to perform at the Olympics next year?

Next year there will also be the European Cup in Portugal in June if I’m not mistaken. There will only be Europeans competing there so I don’t think that Russians will have any problems getting top spots there. As far as I know in this competition in Europe there will only be one spot for Russia, but I don’t have any doubt that Russia will earn this spot and do well.

I am sure that by now everybody has heard of Larisa Ilchenko and her injury. Can you tell us anything that maybe we don’t already know, and do you know she will be able to perform next year in the Olympics in London,  will she be able to recover in time to perform?

Yeah, I am hoping for this. Honestly I don’t know just how serious her injury is but I know that she does have an injury. I have spoken with her personally but even in these closed conversations she doesn’t say a whole lot about “what why where when or how” so it’s hard to tell. She probably doesn’t want to jinx anything. But I hope she’ll be ok, she’ll return, and she’ll regain her spot to fight for Russia on the national team in future competitions and at the Olympic Games.