Goggleblog headed down for a dip in London’s Serpentine Lido to talk to Speedo coach Sean Kelly about swimming in open water, coaching Olympic silver medalist Kerri-Anne Payne and our prospects for the London 2012 Olympics.
You’re perhaps best known for working with Keri-Anne Payne, but you coach a number of swimmers don’t you?
As well as Kerri-Anne I also work with Cassie Patten (who finished third in Beijing behind Kerri-Anne Payne), James Goddard, David Carry and Michael Rock.
How did you get into swimming coaching?
I swam indoors when I was a youngster as well as playing semi-professional football. I also did some lifeguarding in Australia. But it was only when I taught a young child to swim who couldn’t swim at all that I realised teaching was for me.
Do you like to swim in open water?
I do now. I like to swim all the open water courses we go to around the world.
What do you think are the main differences between pool swimming and open water swimming?
Well it’s colder for a start! I think the venues are more interesting than the inside of a pool. The open water team gets to some amazing places around the world.
Obviously it’s freestyle based as opposed to the other strokes and I think the key things are endurance training and swimming straight!
That’s true enough. I seem to remember Dave Davies went off at a funny angle when he was swimming in Beijing.
Yes he did. There was a lot of debate about that. We thought he needed to practise more in open water prior to going to Beijing but he was also focused on the pool. Maybe with hindsight he may have done a few more races.
Do you train in open water or in the pool?
We do train prior to competitions in open water, but we do most of our training in the pool.
Why is that?
Because it’s measurable and we can control the environment which you can’t always do outdoors. Also we can use our video analysis systems so we can make sure the strokes are efficient. We’ve got all our sports science equipment set up at the pool and it’s very difficult to lug that out to an open water setting.
Why do you think open water swimming has become so popular of late? Everyone seems to be talking about it.
I think in the swimming fraternity once open water swimming became an Olympic event people started to take it more seriously. When there’s an Olympic medal up for grabs people are going to switch to the sport. There’s nothing quite so prestigious for me as the Olympics. We did particularly well in Beijing winning three of the six medals so I think it just took off from there really.
What do you think our prospects are for 2012?
Well we’ll be in there (he points to the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park). I think the prospects are good. We’ve got some young swimmers coming through. Mark Perry is head coach of the open water team and he’s doing a great job. We’ve just come back from European Juniors where we won golds in both male and female races. It seems the future for open water swimming is really, really bright. I can’t wait for London!
Sean Kelly is a Speedo sponsored coach
See the video interview with Sean below: