Must one be a Fast swimmer to be a Great swimmer?

by Evan Morrison. 10 May 2011.

An excerpt from an interview with Kevin Murphy, King of the English Channel:

I don’t regard myself as a great swimmer. What I’ve got is an overwhelming ability to keep going, physically and mentally; I’ve got this obsessive willpower to keep going. As a swimmer, there are lots of people who are much better than me; there are a lot of swimmers who are a lot fitter than me. But the point about what we do is… I like to say that 50% of it is willpower; 25% swimming ability; and 25% fitness. The only thing about it is, the fitter you are and the better swimmer you are, the less it hurts psychologically.

Kevin was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2009. Among other feats, he’s completed 34 crossings of the English Channel.

And he is not a fast swimmer. (His fastest E-F crossing was 13 hours, 31 minutes).

This cuts to the heart of marathon swimming and is perhaps the most significant difference from pool swimming (in which athletes are judged only on the basis of time/speed). Marathon swimming is mostly about persistence and stubbornness, or as Murphy says, “willpower.” It’s nice to be fast, of course; but it’s a relatively minor detail. A luxury.

Kevin Murphy is not a fast swimmer. Yet he is undoubtedly a great swimmer.

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On 2011-05-21 07:17:18, Donal said:
Excellent. Kevin IS Open Water. I'm lucky enough that Kevin was observer on my Channel swim. I'm actually planning a brief post about about Kevin and someone else myself in the near future.

On 2011-05-21 13:48:44, Evan said:
Lucky you to have him as an observer! His OWW interview was just great; I'd love to meet him someday.