Long Way To Go For Marathon Swimming
Sep 11, 2008
Craig Lord

The Olympic marathon may have been a success but there is a journey yet for open water in terms of becoming a sport of full participation in the gap between Games. This week has seen Europe, which accounted for every single marathon medal in Beijing, holds its open water championships - but no sign of more than half the medallists at the latest champs. 

The explanation might have been found in the fact that the likes of David Davies, Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten, of Britain - a nation that took half the Marathon medals in Beijing to the credit and delight of head open water coach Sean Kelly - were away on holiday after their efforts in the pool and rowing lake in China. 

Partly true - their break much needed. But it turns out that the Brits will turn out elsewhere this weekend: at the Great North Swim across a mile of Lake Windermere in England. There with them will be fellow Beijing medal winner, Joanne Jackson, third behind Rebecca Adlington in the 400m free. Adlington, who added the 800m free crown in a world record, will not be taking the plunge. She hates the sea!  ‘I’m scared of the sea," she told us in Beijing. "I’m absolutely petrified. It’s the unknown. I can’t stand fish. I don’t eat any fish at all. I can’t. Yuck, can’t stand it. I can’t do fish and I’m petrified of what’s underneath me in the sea." No marathon future for her then.

The English lake expects to be parted by more than 2,000 swimmers tomorrow, all funds raised going to charity. Davies will be joined by the men who finished either side of him in Beijing, Holland's Maarten van der Weijden and Germany's  Thomas Lurz, both of whom did race in the European champs, Lurz the 10km champion.

The Great North Swim, conceived by former Olympic athlete Brendan Foster,  is part of Britain's Take To The Streets campaign,  designed to fight laziness and rising obesity rates. It will also raise money for charity. The campaign target if to get the public to swim 100 million miles by the time London lights the Olympic flame in 2012.