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London Olympics Open-Water 10-Kilometer Swimming Preview

Yahoo Contributor Network

The open-water swimming races at the London Games will be held on Thursday, August 9 for women, and the next day for men.

Both events cover 10 kilometers, and there will be 25 swimmers in each of the men's and women's races.

These events were held for the first time at a Summer Olympics in Beijing four years ago.

The action will take place at the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park. The Serpentine is a 28-acre lake that traces its history in its present form back more than 250 years.

It has a maximum depth of 40 feet and competitors may encounter various birds and aquatic life as they make six loops of the lake to complete the 10-kilometer course.

Spectators can line the banks of the lake to view the action at a spot of their choosing, since no ticket purchases are necessary, making this event the only free one at the Olympics.

Unlike standard Olympic swimming races, there are no preliminaries to determine a group of finalists. There is simply a mass start of all 25 swimmers. Because the races take around two hours, there are refreshment stations on four floating pontoons spaced throughout the course.

On the men's side, Thomas Lurz of Germany-a five-time world champion and the bronze medalist in Beijing-is one of the favorites for gold this time.

Another swimmer to watch for an expected podium finish is Greece's Spyridon Gianniotis, the world titlist in the event at last year's competition in Shanghai.

An interesting swimmer in the men's event will be Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia. He will compete in the open water after earlier winning bronze in the men's 1500-meter freestyle.

As for the women's event, Keri-Anne Payne of Great Britain-the silver medalist in Beijing-will be favored for the top spot on the medal podium at home tomorrow. Payne is also the reigning world champion and appears to be in top form for the most important swim of her career.

Other top-notch performers who should challenge for the women's gold include Italy's Martina Grimaldi and Marianna Lymperta of Greece.

Patrick Hattman covers the Olympics for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and looks forward to more drama and excitement from the remaining days of competition at the London Games.

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