British international open water swimmer Tom Sunter, 20, chats with blueseventy about his transition from the pool to the deep blue and the 2013 Open Water swim circuit.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’ve been a swimmer from a very young age, but I only competed in my first open water event in 2010. The last past two years have seen me gain a lot of experience in what was an ‘alien’ sport to me! I made the British team for the 2010 LEN Cup in Israel (which also doubled as the World trials), despite never having swum more than a 1500m in the pool!
So what have you been up to more recently?
I swam at the 2012 European Open Water Championships in Italy, where I was hoping for a top ten finish on the 10k. I was a bit unlucky and was out of the water for a month before. I only got back in just three weeks before the competition, so I knew it was going to be tough.
I started well and to the 7000m mark I was sitting in around eighth place. But then the lack of training and preparation caused me to slip down the pack and finish in 27th... Not what I had hoped for!
I’d finished 5th at the Junior Europeans for the previous two years, but this was my first European Championships as a senior. But you have to look at the positives and I did take a lot of experience from that race.
What does the 2013 hold for you then?
In January I am competing in the first two legs of the World Cup Series in Brazil and Argentina and I’ll be taking my blueseventy nero legskins with me. This will be the first time I compete in a FINA World Cup event, even though I’ve competed in five legs of the European Cup over the past two years. I’m looking forward to visiting Brazil, especially with the build up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games just beginning.
What would you like to achieve in 2013?
My main aim is to qualify for the World Championships in Barcelona in July. If I manage to secure a place on the team for that, then that is just a bonus, as I know how difficult this is going to be.
Who are you up against this year?
My main rival for a place on the team is Daniel Fogg. Dan finished 5th in the 10km at the 2012 Olympic Games. I’ve raced him a few times over the last two years on 10km events and I know how tough he is.
Seeing as you’re from a pool background, how have you found the transition to open water?
It wasn’t as hard as I expected. My stroke is suited to racing in rough and choppy water, and I’m able to ’spot’(lift my head up forward to breathe) quite easily. The thing I wasn’t used to during my first few races was just how physical a 10km race is! So many swimmers swim in such a small area that competitors receive knocks to the face and body. Obviously there is a referee to stop physical contact, but I have been hit a few times and I know that it was done intentionally!
So apart from taking self-defence classes, what are your tips for someone looking to make the move to open water?
Making the move from pool swimming into open water swimming is very exciting, but I would advise starting on a small/local race. That way you can work on techniques and skills, and then it will be easier to build up towards the bigger races, which are undoubtedly going to have more contact and be more challenging.
Another tip I have is to draft behind other swimmers. Drafting behind other swimmers means a decrease in effort but still being able to maintain speed. It is estimated that a swimmer who has their head on the hip of another swimmer is exerting around 13% less effort that the swimmer in front. This means you can save energy for the sprint finish at the end. I once led a race for 9400m only to be overtaken on the final sprint... Had I drafted more, the results might have been different.
What suits do you where when you race in the pool and open water?
I’ve raced in blueseventy suits before in the pool, last season for example I wore the neroXII jammers and I was pleased with how they felt. Some suits often don’t fit as well around the knee but the Nero was great. I have also raced in the Helix wetsuit in one of the Great Swims in 2011. It was the first time I raced in a wetsuit and I found it surprisingly light and the freedom of movement I had was amazing!
Good luck to Tom in 2013 as he takes on the world; we hope he’ll be swimming faster in blueseventy too!