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Chloe's Corner

Mark's Mission - Part 1

Mark Warkentin
Photo of Mark Warkentin with white lanolin caked on his neck and shoulders after a training session at the
2007 World Swimming Championships in Melbourne. Photo by Dr. Jim Miller.

Mark Warkentin of the Santa Barbara Swim Club was asked a series of questions prior to departing for Beijing for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. Here are his first-person answers:

Q1. Like a water polo game or a basketball game, there are lots of fouls called during an open water swim. The referee gives warning whistles, many yellow cards and an occasional red flag. What do you think about when you are given a warning whistle or a yellow card?

A1. I think about not being issued a red card. In Seville, we know what happened with Grant Hackett [when he was disqualified for a red card]. Things happen so quickly at times. In the last 25 meters in Seville, someone got red carded. In the blink of an eye, situations change. But, I know what I need to do if I am boxed in or not in a good position. I just stay relaxed and know there is a long swim of me with a lot of variables ahead.

 

Mark's Mission - Part 2

Mark Warkentin
AP photo of Mark Warkentin at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships.

Mark Warkentin of the Santa Barbara Swim Club was asked a series of questions prior to departing for Beijing for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. Here are his first-person answers:

Q2. Regarding your competition, who are you looking out for at the Olympics? Why?

A2. David Davies [of the U.K.] is the scariest person to race. What he did in Seville [at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships] was exceptional. I think he will be the guy who people will be looking at. He took it out so fast and never stopped to drink [at the feeding pontoons]. He really changed the dynamics of racing at the world-class level.

 

Mark's Mission - Part 3: World's Best Brain Trust

Mark Warkentin and Friends
Photo shows Mark with his training teammates Eric Vendt and Klete Keller
in Beijing hours before the opening ceremonies.

Mark Warkentin certainly has one of the world's most accomplished brain trusts of any athlete at the Olympics.

Throughout Mark's career, he has been coached by some of the world's most innovative and accomplished coaches. In Beijing, Mark will have the benefit of having FIVE of his former and current coaches to provide him support and guidance.

These individuals and the years they coach Mark include:

1. Larry Liebowitz (who coached Mark from 1993-1995), head coach of Oregon State, is currently coaching a Japanese swimmer in Beijing.
2. Mark Schubert (1998-2003) is in Beijing as the USA Swimming National Team Head Coach and General Manager
3. Frank Busch (2003-2004) is in Beijing as the USA Olympic Swim Team assistant coaches.
4. Gregg Wilson (2004 to present), head coach of UC Santa Barbara, will be in Beijing to watch the 10K.
5. John Dussliere of the Santa Barbara Swim Club (2006 to present) is serving as the American Open Water Men's Head Coach.

 

Mark's Mission - Part 4

Mark Warkentin
Photo of Mark screaming with joy after winning the
USA Swimming National 25K Championships in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Mark Warkentin of the Santa Barbara Swim Club was asked a series of questions prior to departing for Beijing for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. Here are his first-person answers:

Q3. Your teammates are an incredible bunch: Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol and Ryan Lochte. Do they ever talk about open water swimming with you? If so, what do they ask you? Do you think any of those guys would be great open water swimmers?

A3. Yeah, they ask me questions. They have a sort of morbid curiosity about open water swimming. Everyone wants to know: why do you do it? What do you think about? How do you make the Olympics? How do you break from the pack? Those guys are all so talented, they can be successful in whatever distance they swim, but I think they are going to stick with the pool. [wide smile]

 

Mark's Mission - Part 5

Mark Warkentin and President Bush

The following is a first-person account by Mark Warkentin's of his experiences just before the Opening Ceremonies. His humor and genuine appreciation of the honor of being an Olympian are obvious:

A short bus ride took us [the USA Olympic Team] to the Fencing Arena, the location that the American athletes would meet President Bush. Fortunately the President was a bit late in his arrival, so all of the American athletes got to loiter around and take pictures with one another. This is when I became a member of the self-paparazzi. Here is the transcript of almost every conversation that took place:

"Hey, can I get a picture with you?" "Sure, can I get one of us with my camera too?"

The whole experience took me back to my high school prom, and, just like prom, the coolest kids in school arrived last. Just as soon as we had finished exhausting ourselves in self-adoration, the most recognizable athletes on the planet arrived. I succumbed to temptation and joined the other athletes as we tried, as maturely as we could, to get photos with NBA stars.

Mark Warkentin and the NBA The hype of getting a picture with the NBA stars weakened dramatically when the President walked in the room. It’s a rather funny commentary on our culture: we’re always looking for one person better than the one we’re with. We’d have been perfectly happy taking pictures of ourselves until we saw the NBA players, and we’d have been happy with our picture with Kobe Bryant until we saw we could get a picture with the President.
   
Mark Warkentin and the First Lady My first great photo was with the First Lady, who was really nice, and we engaged in a bit of chit-chat on swimming. I then made my way over to the First Daughter to get a picture and, absentmindedly, I nearly asked someone in the Secret Service to take the picture. Fortunately I caught myself before asking the serious man to do something very silly. I stopped, reminded myself that I was acting like an idiot, and then found a person not carrying a gun to take my picture.
   
Mark Warkentin and George senior I then got a picture with the former President, a man who wasn't really interested in me at all, but gave me the obligatory 3 seconds needed to get a photo with him. Afterwards I tried to imagine how much of his life has been wasted waiting those 3 seconds for the camera to take a picture.

After about an hour of waiting it was time for the Swimming delegation to get a picture with the president. Erik Vendt and I had exchanged cameras a few minutes earlier when we hatched a plan to each get a personal picture with the President even though earlier in the evening we had been told that this would not be possible. We were told that a group picture would be taken and then mailed to us. However, we noticed that some of the athletes in the other disciplines had managed to get personal pictures anyway, and so Erik and I were determined to get ours as well. If you know Erik, it will not surprise you when I recount what Erik told me just before we met the President:

"Mark, no matter what ANYONE says, you get a picture of me with the President."

For some crazy reason this actually made sense at the moment. It wasn’t until afterwards that I thought about the insanity of DEMANDING on getting your way when you’re 2 feet from the President of the United States.

Erik got to the President before I did and thus he engaged Mr. Bush in this conversation:

Erik: "Mr. President will you be at the swimming finals on Sunday morning?"

President Bush: "Sorry, but I'll be going to church on Sunday morning."

Erik: "I thought there wasn't church in China."

President Bush: "There’s church alright, it's just underground."

Somewhere around that last line I took the picture for Erik, and then, lacking anything really profound to say at the moment I gave Erik the signal to hold up his end of the bargain.

Mark: "Mr. President can I get a picture with you?"

President Bush: "Sure you can."

I know, I'm pretty weak. But, I got a picture with the President at the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, so I’m okay with being tongue-tied in the moment.

 

Mark's Mission - Part 6

Mark Warkentin

Mark Warkentin is working out hard (see below) in his build-up to the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, but NBC did film Mark with a Tai chi master who demonstrated the Chinese martial art on Mark for a special piece that will be broadcast nationally at NBC.

Mark did a pulling set where he did a 1000 in 10:49, took a 10-second rest, did a 2000 in 21:15, took a 20-second rest, then did a 3000 in 31:14 where his last 1500 was a 15:32 - or a 1:02 pace per 100 at the end of a 6K set.

 

Mark's Mission - Part 7

Mark Warkentin and wife Diana
Photo of Mark with his wife Diana taken by Dr. Jim Miller
at the 2007 World Swimming Championships.

With less than a week to go for the men's Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, Mark Warkentin gives his personal handicap of the race:

"My learning curve over the past year has been enormous, and in terms of tactics and strategy, I don’t think anyone has an advantage over me. The water is going to be a very hot 84 degrees, which plays to my advantage. I’ve never worn a full body suit, but many of the swimmers in the race have grown accustomed to the full body suit and those swimmers will have to make the choice: go with the full body suit they usually race in, or go with a smaller suit that won’t make them overheat. Body temperature is going to play a huge part in the race."

"Now, the bad news. Everyone else is really fast and it’s going to take the swim of my life to win a medal. Here are the significant contenders that I’m going to have to take down."

1. Vladimir Dyachin is brilliant and fast. He’s the Russian World Champion and he will swim a nearly perfect race.

2. David Davies from Great Britain, got second at the World Championships, he’s very fast and his learning curve is about a great as mine.

3. Thomas Lurz from Germany, is also highly intelligent and also very fast. The guy is legitimate.


Everyone in the top 10 is pretty much equally fit, so that’s a draw. The variables of the Olympics could determine everything: who ate what in the week before the race, who stayed focused in training, and who will get nervous before the race. And, significantly, who will make a mistake in the race. There’s always mistakes made in a race, it could be any of us, and there’s no way to tell who is going to be kicking themselves afterwards.

The race will not only be webcast live at 6 pm on August 20th (US time) on NBC Olympics, but it will also be archived for later viewing first at a NBCOlympics.com, and later on Universal Sports.

 



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