By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, July 12, 2019
Haley Anderson thinks this year’s contingent of nine U.S. swimmers competing at the FINA Open Water World Championships in South Korea is the most experienced the United States has ever sent.
And she has a lot of proof backing up that statement.
This is her fifth Open Water Worlds to go along with two Olympics, and 2019 U.S. Open Water National Champion and teammate Ashley Twichell is competing in her fourth Worlds.
On the men’s side, 2019 National Champion Jordan Wilimovsky is back for his fourth consecutive Open Water Worlds (and also competed at the 2016 Olympics), and David Heron is competing at his second Worlds but also has Pan Pacific and Pan American Games experience.
Collectively, Anderson, Twichell and Wilimovsky have combined for 10 medals (five gold) between them at Open Water Worlds.
Suffice it to say that’s a lot of success in the open water.
“This is a very experienced group even among our rookies,” she said. “We have four athletes who have been to the last two World Championships, and the other athletes have experience from World Cups or the junior international level.
“This year in the 10k everybody is on edge and a bit more aggressive since its qualifying for the Olympics.”
As the most veteran of the group, Anderson, who will be 28 in November, said she sees a lot of great opportunity for the United States to shine in the waters of Yeosu Expo Ocean Park over the next few days.
With automatic berths on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games at stake (top 10 swimmers in the 10K race qualify for the Olympics), she said she knows there’s a lot on the line, as she would relish the opportunity to compete in her third straight Olympics. She was fifth in the 10K in Rio three years ago.
The same goes for Wilimovsky, who is the defending 10K World champion and finished fifth in the same event in Rio.
Not only will he compete in the open water competition this weekend, but he’ll also swim the 800 and 1,500 freestyle events later in the meet at what is the last big international meet before next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
While the pool events are important to him – mostly to continue his personal goal of proving that U.S. men’s distance swimming is still on the uptick – the most important event for Wilimovsky is the 10k Open Water swim.
It’s pivotal because a top 10 finish will ensure him a spot on the plane to Japan next summer and alleviate the pressure he knows he’d otherwise feel at Olympic Trials next June in Omaha.
“Obviously, my main goal is to qualify (for the Olympics), but anytime you get to represent the United States, you want to swim fast,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be ready to have some good pool races, too.”
While Anderson and Wilimovsky are competing exclusively in the 10k in Open Water, Twichell will also swim the individual 5k and team 5k.
At 30, she is the oldest member of the team, and, like Wilimovsky, will also compete in the 1,500 in the pool at Worlds. Twichell shined at the 2017 FINA Open Water World Championships in Budapest, winning gold in the 5k, silver as part of the 5k relay team and a top-10 finish in the 10k.
While she has four medals in Open Water World Championships competition, she will be attempting to qualify for her first Olympic Games appearance.
These three veterans, along with Heron, a top 10 finisher at 2017 Open Water Worlds will be the contingent vying for individual spots on 2020 Olympic Team. He also is competing for his first Olympic Games appearance in the 10k, and will also swim in the the 25k event.
They are leading and setting an example for five first-time Open Water World swimmers from the United States who are competing in the 5k and 25k events and will contribute to the overall team outcome.
But like Anderson said, this group – which includes first-time World competitors Katy Campbell, Hannah Moore, Erica Sullivan, Michael Brinegar and Brennan Gravley – is deep and talented and has international experience at various levels of pool and open water swimming in their careers.
The 2019 FINA Open Water World Championships will take place from July 13-14 and July 16-19 at the Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park in Yeosu, South Korea.
2019 FINA Open Water World Championships Roster:
Haley Anderson (Granite Bay, Calif./Trojan Swim Club): 10k
Katy Campbell (La Cañada, Calif./Team Santa Monica): 25k
Hannah Moore (Cary, N.C./Wolfpack Elite): 5k
Erica Sullivan (Las Vegas, Nev./Sandpipers of Nevada): 25k
Ashley Twichell (Fayetteville, N.Y./TAC Titans): 5k, 10k
Michael Brinegar (Columbus, Ind./Mission Viejo Nadadores): 5k
Brennan Gravley (Las Vegas, Nev./Sandpipers of Nevada): 5k, 25k
David Heron (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo Nadadores): 10k, 25k
Jordan Wilimovsky (Malibu, Calif./Team Santa Monica): 10k