Marathon swimmers test out Tokyo’s stunning setting

A total of 35 elite-level swimmers – 22 men and 13 women – lined up for the Tokyo 2020 marathon swimming test event on Sunday, as preparations for next year’s Olympic Games continue to gather pace. 

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Both the men and women raced over 5km at Odaiba Marine Park, half the Olympic distance, as part of the ongoing ‘Ready Steady Tokyo’ test event series. While results were not issued, with organisers using the event primarily to test logistical and operational issues, the field did include a strong selection of Japanese stars and a number of the sport’s biggest names, including the London 2012 men’s champion, Oussama Mellouli.

The Tunisian, who also won 1500m freestyle bronze in the pool at London 2012, having claimed gold in the event four years earlier in Beijing, told local reporters that it was “the warmest race” he’d ever swum.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has been keeping a close eye on temperatures in the Japanese capital, stressing that the well-being of the competitors remains its highest priority. The start time for the men’s event, originally scheduled for 10:00 local time, was moved forwards to 07:00, in line with the start of the women’s event.

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In addition, FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu revealed that he and his colleagues are working in conjunction with Tokyo 2020 and other local bodies to monitor temperatures and ensure that the world’s top swimmers will race for gold next year in the best conditions possible.

“Based on this information, we will decide the time the event will start,” Marculescu said. “Could be 5am, could be 5:30am, can be 6am, can be 6:30am – depends on the water temperature. Working with a specialised company like we are going to do here in Tokyo, we will have the right information to take the right decision.”

The Odaiba Marine Park, which will also host the men’s and women’s triathlon events next summer, is one of the most eye-catching of all the 42 venues primed to stage the world’s biggest sporting spectacle.

Thanks to a system of underwater filters, FINA is now confident that previous concerns around water quality have been allayed.

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“What we have had are readings from the last month, daily readings that have given us very clear indications of the water quality, which has been good,” FINA Sports Medicine Committee Vice Chairman David Gerrard said in Tokyo.

The Ready Steady Tokyo series continues this week with the equestrian eventers in town, while the world’s best triathletes also take to the streets and the Kasumigaseki Country Club, an Olympic venue, hosts the Japan Junior Golf Championship.