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SWIMMER Editorials

  1. Growing Pains (November-December 2013)

    by , November 1st, 2013 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    Knowledge, sometimes born from debate, is good for sports
    I know next to nothing about sports other than swimming. Im an anomaly in almost any crowdmy friends tease me for not knowing what a first down is or look aghast when I suggest that the stuff you endure at a live baseball game is manufactured to distract you from the low energy level (Hey! Its time to stand up and sing now!).

    Baseball, basketball, and football are so popular that many, many people know the rules of those games. Yes, there is controversy (betting, steroids, the NCAA, etc.), but the technical rules are generally understood (seemingly by everyone except me) and you can find lively, informed debate at watercoolers and in sports bars and broadcast booths around the country.

    Swimming is pretty far behind the ball sports in terms of mainstream understanding, but intensive media coverage of the swimming events of the past two Olympics means your office matewhose only previous definition of an IM was instant messaging in the 1990sis now on a first-name basis with marquee swimmers: Cant wait to see Michael and Ryan go at it in the 400 IM!

    Not so much for open water, or more specifically, its lesser understood and gangly cousin, marathon swimming, which is currently experiencing growing pains thanks to the media coverage and subsequent controversy that surrounded Diana Nyads recent Cuba to Florida swim.

    It didnt take long for debate to brew around Nyads swim; within days of her staggering ashore in Florida, marathon swimming insiders began asking questions that touched off a lengthy, ongoing conversation about rules, transparency, and the very integrity of the sport. What bloomed online is a debate that most people dont have any way of participating in because marathon swimming is not a watercooler topic in most places.

    Still, most nonswimmers have heard of Nyad and her swim and comment frequently to us swimmers about it. Its easy to see why her story has broad appeal: It touches on aging better, goal-setting, perseverance, and other inspirational themes that extend beyond the sport. And whether you know a lot or nothing about swimming, what she accomplished was impressive.

    But marathon swimming is a sport with a rich history, traditions, and technical rules, just like other sports. The small but vocal group of expertsmany of them accomplished marathon swimmerswho are asking questions about Nyads swim have the opportunity to educate journalists, so that journalists, in turn, can educate the public when they start asking questions around the watercooler: Are you allowed to touch the boat? What is the difference between a marathon swim and an exhibition swim? What is the difference between assisted and unassisted? When do we stand up and sing?

    There will always be debate, and thats a good thing, but knowledge is the key to informed debate. Lets hope that Nyads swim and both its supporters and detractors bring a new level of understanding to a beautiful, sometimes brutal sport that tests the limits of both physical and mental endurance in ways most people cannot imagine.

    In this issue of SWIMMER, were excited to bring you profiles of two people who have been influential in helping us understand both marathon swimming and ball sports. Associate editor (and Triple Crown marathon swimmer) Elaine K. Howley writes about Michelle Macys amazing Oceans Seven feat in Swimming Life (Page 6) and frequent contributor Jim Harper writes about legendary sports journalist and Masters swimmer John Feinstein, who credits swimming with saving his life (Page 14). Reading his profile has made me want to read more about other sports. Feinstein is a gifted writer, and thats something I can wrap my brain around, even if I dont (yet) understand the seventh-inning stretch.

    Updated September 15th, 2016 at 04:07 PM by Editor

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  2. Family (March-April 2012)

    by , March 1st, 2012 at 12:00 AM (SWIMMER Editorials)
    While gathering articles and information for our annual open water issue, I was struck by the sense of community in the world of open water swimming. As vast as the worlds waters are, the passionate group of swimmers who inhabit them seems like a small family.

    Many open water swimmers, particularly marathon swimmers, know each other well. They share tips, exchange advice and accompany one another on long training swims. They reminisce over swims from the past and dream up great swims for the future. They are also competitive. In this issue, Elaine K. Howley, an experienced marathoner herself, looks at the how challenges are thrown down in Farther, Faster, Colder, First.

    As in all families, the members dont always agree on everything. This issues Both Sides of the Lane Line presents two views of the medias role in the open water world. Both are well thought-out and both convey the passion these swimmers feel for their sport.

    And whether arguing or agreeing, this open water family is always happy to share. When we needed some advice about what marathoners use to prevent chafing and protect their skin, several greatly respected swimmers shared their secrets. (See What the Experts Do in Swim Bag.)

    Learning from those who have swum before is deeply ingrained in the family. Its as though swimmers undergo a transformation once theyve tackled cold water, jellyfish and fatigue. Theyre grateful for help along the way, and want the cycle to continue. Laura Jones interviewed Craig Lenning about his North Channel swim for Swimming Life, and he repeats the mantra weve heard from so many of these amazing athletes: Pay it forward.

    One family member who does that on a daily basis is Steven Munatones. He might seem like the godfather of this family, but hes really more like the Kevin Bacon of open water swimmingonly with one or two degrees of separation, rather than sixfrom everyone else. Its become nigh impossible to research, reference, quote, edit or write anything about open water swimming without coming across one of his creations: the Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Openwaterpedia, Oceans Seven and many more.

    Munatones penned two of the articles in this issue: the technique feature, "Open Water Feeding and Splashback on how marathon swimming became an Olympic event. His new book, Open Water Swimming, is reviewed in Swimming Life. His passion for the sport and for recognizing the accomplishments of the rest of the family comes through in everything he does.

    Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:49 AM by Editor

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