Swim competition has taken 2010 McCallie School graduate Sean Ryan to such faraway places as Guam, Italy, Dubai and Montreal, and now he’s in China for a chance to be in the Olympic Games next year in London.
Ryan swims Wednesday morning in Shanghai — about 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday — in the World Aquatic Championships’ 10-kilometer open water event. There are 25 entrants, and the top 10 finishers qualify for London.
Last month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — soon after finishing his freshman year at the University of Michigan — Ryan won the USA Swimming open water 5k and finished second in the Olympic distance. The 10k winner was Alex Meyer, a 2010 Harvard graduate who with Ryan represented the United States in the Worlds’ 25k two years ago in Italy.
If only one of them makes the top 10 Tuesday night, that one will be the only U.S. male open water swimmer in the Olympics. If neither makes it, a complicated “Continental” championship scenario could get one of them in.
“We’re just hoping we’re both in the top 10,” Ryan said during a brief stay at home in Hixson after the nationals. “I don’t want to look ahead to 2016. I’m aiming for London and 2012.”
McCallie coach Stan Corcoran expects his 6-foot-3, 160-pound former star to be there.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, because this race is not going to be an easy race, but a lot of the conditions are favorable for him,” Corcoran said. “If he swims like he’s capable of, you can expect him to be in the top five — especially if he can get to 1500 meters fairly fresh, without getting beat up. The open water is a very physical race and an Olympic spot is at stake, so Sean needs to stay away from the big guys.”
The water temperature at the Shanghai venue is 84-85 degrees, which Ryan admitted he loves.
“At McCallie and other places I’ve trained, I’m used to water in the 80s,” Ryan said last month, before taking two seconds and a third in the Canada Cup.
“He does really well in hot water,” Corcoran said. “Those Europeans and some other swimmers there are big guys, and those guys will overheat a lot quicker than a skinny guy like Sean. It’s a disadvantage for Sean to swim in cold water, because those other guys have a lot more meat on them and can stay warmer, so he’s in a great situation in this race.”
Also at the Worlds, Ryan will compete in the open water 5k and a relay. As he headed last Tuesday to China after U.S. team training in the Florida Keys, he was expecting the Shanghai course to be much smoother than what he encountered in the 10k race at Fort Lauderdale.
“As I understand it, it’s in a big protected area, maybe a mile or so long,” Ryan said, “so it’s really big and could get choppy but not wavy.”