“Of course, you want to give something back to the sport and at the same time it widened my own horizons.” - Britta Kamrau
As an accomplished open water swimmer Germany’s Britta Kamrau earned 26 international medals during her open water swimming career. The most prestigious of her 10 gold medals is the title of World Champion won at the 2007 Melbourne World Championships in the 25km event. She was a three-time European Champion winning titles in the 5km, 10km and 25km in the same year.
Invited to help promote her sport, Britta joined World Aquatics as a member of the Athletes Commission in 2009 and served as an athlete representative until 2022. She has been a member of the Open Water Swimming Technical Committee since 2017. With her experience as an elite athlete, Kamrau has made significant contributions including writing the revisions to water safety guidelines.
Married in 2016, Kamrau is the mother of three children. She has worked for 11 years as a senior public prosecutor in Germany and before that in the Ministry of Justice of her state. In 2021 President Al-Musallam appointed her to the Reform Committee created to ensure an athlete-centric approach in the sweeping changes made by World Aquatics over the last two years. Kamrau has been a popular and respected figure in the open water swimming community for some time and was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
How do you think that open water swimming has improved since the time of your retirement?
Open water swimming and the athletes have become more professional and therefore we must try to be more professional in the organisation and the presentation of the sport. There is a lot of experience on the technical committee including members from the time when I was swimming. Of course, the safety issue is always coming first.
There is a lot more mixing of pool and open water swimmers which is evidence of the popularity of the sport. You can regularly see the best athletes from 800m and 1500m pool events racing in the 5km and 10km contests. We have welcomed the best swimmers who are doing both and they are showing that swimmers can be successful in both. Everyone wants to improve and swim faster and faster with or without lanes.
Open water swimming is and will always be a different event, sometimes considered an extreme sport. This was especially noticeable at Seaside Momochi Beach Park during the World Championships. The day of the relay the swimmers faced especially choppy waters, and there were days earlier in the competition with extremely hot air temperatures. But it's good that we have an influx of pool swimmers who easily adapt to these conditions. Open water swimming is both physical and tactical. The athletes' concentration on the details of training is amazing, all in an effort to be in their best shape.
What do you think can be done to grow the sport and to promote its athletes?
The sport will grow faster when we successfully build greater interest with other swimmers and when we engage spectators and the public in our events. I think the introduction of the 4x1500m Mixed Relay is a good step. We may think about some other events with a different concept or other relays which can bring the excitement and the fun even closer to the people on the shore. We need to bring the excitement that each of us can see in the water, to the public who is watching nearby on the beach or thousands of miles away in front of the television or on a streaming broadcast.
This has improved a lot since my days as an open water swimmer. Look at the big screen presentations featuring the athletes before their event. We are now giving the public more than before. Now we show the face of our athletes, well beyond the time when our swimmers were often incognito under a cap and behind their goggles.
You are involved in a leadership role. Are there specific contributions you have made?
I always try to bring the athletes' perspective to the table and it's always helpful to have the athletes' view on a variety of matters. It could be just some details about the course or it could be issues of a general nature. I think it's important to have this perspective and continue to make progress
Having been a member of the Athletes Committee even before my retirement, my perspective has always been welcome by the members of the Technical Open Water Swimming Committee. They have always valued the athletes' input. I know it’s important what we say. A few of the committee members have been swimmers themselves.
Tell us about a favourite open water swimming memory from your career?
That's a tough one, because I am not sure that there is just one special event for me? Even my own time since I finished my career is getting longer too. But there have been many events that I really like attending. I enjoyed being there on the open water circuit and meeting my competitors, some who were also my friends. Sure I regard my three titles (5km-10km-25km) in 2004 at the European Championships in Madrid as memorable. The World Championship gold medal in the 25 km from Melbourne 2007 will always be special.