Tunisian to swim in pool, open-water

Tunisian to swim in pool, open-water

LONDON - The Associated Press
Tunisian to swim in pool, open-water

Oussama Mellouli. AFP photo

Ous Mellouli will be the first swimmer to compete in both a pool and a lake at the same Olympics.

Clearly, the Tunisian swimmer prefers being able to see the bottom, which definitely won’t be the case when he competes in open water at The Serpentine.

No wonder some locals derisively refer to it as “The Turpentine.”

“The water looks pretty murky,” Mellouli said. “Not very inviting.”

Hyde Park, the serene urban oasis in the center of London, will be the unlikely site of this rough-and-tumble sport making its second Olympic appearance.

There was a party atmosphere in the park yesterday for the women’s 10-kilometer race, as boisterous and loud as some of the famous concerts that have been held there.

On the men’s side, Mellouli hopes the bronze he won at the pool in 1,500-meter freestyle was just a warmup for only the third open water race of his career, the men’s marathon today.

“This has never been done before,” he said of his pool-lake double. “I’m very excited to do it.”

More excited than he is about actually racing in The Serpentine. He wouldn’t be diving into this lake without a medal on the line.

“Not unless I absolutely have to,” he said, breaking into a smile, “and that is the case here.”
Actually, the water quality notwithstanding, this is nothing daunting for swimmers who are used to competing in towering waves and nasty storms, who are willing to contend with everything from sharks to jellyfish - not to mention the occasional elbow from a rival swimmer. Even the water temperature has warmed up a bit, providing ideal conditions.

“This is like pool swimming,” said Germany’s Thomas Lurz, a five-time world champion and 2008 bronze medalist. “I like it when it’s choppy.”