With the FINA Marathon Swim World Series 2022 season getting underway this weekend in Setubal, Portugal, we're in for some exciting open water swimming action. With the competitions also the final global test before the 19th FINA World Championships, there are plenty of intriguing storylines to explore. Three swimmers that could be central characters to the opening races let us in on what's to come.
Anna Olasz – Hungary
We caught up first with Anna Olasz after she and her Hungarian teammates put in two shakeout laps in Setubal. The 29-year-old with the sporting philosophy of “hard work pays off” struck an excited and confident tone when back beachside. But the Arizona State Sun Devil alum made no doubt about it, that tomorrow’s competition with the waves and currents pushing in the estuary will make for a taxing, testing course for all the competitors.
Anna, how are you feeling? What are your feelings after having tested the course?
It’s really special to have the first World Series event at the end of May and a month before the World Championships. I think all of us are super excited to race each other finally.
It’s an awesome course. It’s my sixth time in Setubal, so I think I’m kind of experienced on this course and at this place. Yeah, overall, I’m just really excited to race.
A constant chatter amongst athletes is really centred on the currents. What’s it like out there?
This is one of the hardest courses because of the currents. Usually, we don’t get to race at places where there are waves and currents that change during the race. This just adds a lot more “open water” to the open water racing. This is what I really like. Compared to Lupa Beach where the FINA World Championships is going to be much more like a big pool while this will be real open water. We’ll really enjoy this.
Can you tell us what the race tactics could be on this course?
Yes, definitely. I think this is the hardest race when considering tactics, too, because you really have to think about your strengths, when to push it and where. Should I go when the current is pushing me, or should I try and go in front when you’re going against the current. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has a different plan. It’s always really exciting to see what works out best. I also think we’re going to have to change our plan during the race with the current changing while we’re racing.
What’s your strength?
My strength is to push at a pretty fast pace for a long time. I’m not the best at sprinting. So, obviously, having a long finish is better for me. I think this venue and this current is helping me because if you’re going to have to really swim the last thousand (metres), which is hopefully going to help me.
Setubal will be racing in wetsuits. Are you into this?
I used to hate wetsuits. They used to be very uncomfortable ones that were very heavy and thick that weren't good for my shoulders. I wasn’t “strong enough” for them. But I think the new technology and the new wet suits are way more comfortable. I did pretty well in wetsuits so I’m not having bad feelings about racing in them. It's going to be very interesting to see how everyone is swimming in wetsuits.
Last question: This will be the last big race before FINA World Championships. How will you use this for your preparation for racing on your home course at Lupa Beach?
This is the last preparation, but this race will be the complete opposite of what we’re expecting at Lupa. Lupa is flat, it's going to be warm water, and definitely no wetsuit. And this is currents, waves, wetsuits. So it’s really different course. But it's still open water, still 10km. We’re going to have a lot of good competition here. This is good preparation and a really good last practice, trying to work on my technique, and my strengths, and see what shape I’m in. Obviously, No one’s tapered, everyone is still very much in training. It’s going to be a good last race.
Marc-Antoine Olivier – France
Next we caught up with Marc-Antoine Olivier, the Frenchman with a history of launching ferocious – and successful – late-race attacks. Following up on his sporting philosophy of “wanting to make history in my sport,” the 2017 winner of both the FINA and LEN Best Male Open Water Swimmer Award winner whose sporting exploits also earned him a Knight of the Order of Merit by the French Government, Olivier made his intentions known that he has his eye on the FINA Marathon Swim World Series 2022 overall crown.
Marc-Antoine, how are you feeling and how do you like this course?
I’m very happy to be here. This is the first World Series event of the season so it’s important to begin good on this beautiful sea. It’s perfect for a good race tomorrow.
What are your expectations for the race?
I think it's going to take a lot of strategy because there’s the waves and current. Before the race, I’ll really need to fix a good strategy as I hope to win tomorrow.
This is kind of the last big race before the FINA World Championships. And while you probably have not yet started tapering yet for this competition, how do you use this for your world championship preparation?
The preparation is different like this because we’ll be racing in wetsuits and I think the world championship will be in swimsuits. It’s important because I want to win the overall classification. It’s the first race of the season and it’s important to begin well. I take on this competition with pleasure.
There is a buoy turn 150 metres before the finish. How will you try and position yourself?
I think the best position is to pass the last buoy first because for those last metres before the finish line we have the current at our back. I think that the first person to pass the last buuy will win tomorrow so getting there first is very important.
Any final thoughts going into the opener?
We have so many good swimmers here. Paltrinieri, Rasovszky, and several others. We have lots of swimmers that can win tomorrow so it’s going to be a very good race.
Gregorio Paltrinieri – Italy
Gregorio Paltrinieri and his Italian teammates struck a relaxed-yet-excited tone for the Setubal opener. The Rio 2016 1500m freestyle Olympic champion and open water bronze medallist from last summer’s Tokyo Games comes into the opener in full-on training mode but he sounded like he’s satisfied with his basic condition and wants to find some clean water to swim away from the congested melee that can be open water pack racing.
It's the beginning of the World Series in Setubal. How are you feeling coming into this season?
It’s pretty exciting to be here. The first time I came to Portugal, I came here to Setubal for a vacation with friends of mine, but for racing, it’s the first time. I’m glad to be here. The course is going to be challenging (chuckling) I guess. When we tried it today, there is a lot of current. It’s going to be cool.
When you came here for vacation, did you get in a little swimming as well?
No, I came for surfing – no swimming. But it was beautiful; we were around Lisbon and all around. It was super cool.
Everyone has told me that this open water race, this is going to be tough. There’s current, sometimes there's waves. It could take us 1h30 or it could take us 2h30. We don’t know, but we see tomorrow.
Will that affect how to feed and fuel for this race?
Yeah, it depends. We’ll see. I’ll have my coach on the pontoon so I will decide based on what I’m feeling while I’m swimming. We see. I hope it's 1h30!
With this being the last international race going into the FINA World Championships, how does this factor into your preparations for Budapest?
We’ve kept training – a lot – during this period. This is actually training for me. We’ve been doing a lot of competition in open water in Italy, including twice in the past two weeks. After this, we will rest for a little bit and head to Budapest. And then after the world championships, we will have the Europeans in Rome. That’s home. That’s going to be cool.
What are you thinking about heading into tomorrow’s competition? How do you like these conditions?
You know, it’s going to be tough. Sometimes, I prefer it to be flat when there’s no waves because that’s more similar to the pool. But, you know, this is the real condition. Real open water conditions. For me, I don’t want to be between a lot of guys, a lot of people, a lot of fighting, so I’ll try and stay on my way. And we’ll see.