(Si quieres leer esta entrevista en español, por favor pincha aquí)
It´s a real honour and pleasure to have olympian and 2nd in the FINA world rankings Damian Blaum in our blog. Damian has an outstanding swimming resume, including 3 victories in the grueling 88 km Hernandarias – Paraná race, the longest open water swimming competition and marathon race in the world. At 8 hours and 17 minutes, Damian also holds the fastest time in that race’s 20 year history. Below the interview, you can also see the many places that open water swimming has taken Damian in the last few years.
Thank you Damian for your graciousness and for the time you took to respond to our questions. Congratulations for all your accomplishments and we wish you the best for what is coming.
At what age did you decide to become and open water swimmer?
When I was 13 years old, I was training at the Club Gimnasia y Esgrima de Buenos Aires, which was the pioneer in Argentinian open water swimming. At that time there were two swimmers that were participating in the World Tour and they were undoubtedly very influential in my growing interest in the sport. Also, Nestor García, my coach at the time, who was my coach until last year, insisted that I start competing in open water, and my first results were good, so my motivation grew and I got increasingly into the sport.
It seems like there is lots of interest in Argentina for open water swimming. Why is this so?
Traditionally Argentina has always had many open water swimmers. The reason behind this interest is essentially the fact that Argentina has three important races in the open water World Circuit. The Rosario City Marathon (15km), the Santa Fe Coronda (57km) and the Hernandarias Paraná, the world’s longest water race with a distance of 88km. The Santa Fe Coronda, is a magnificnet river celebration, with more than 150,000 people follow the event along the river, with almost 20.000 people waiting for the swimmers at the end of the 88 kms. This day, people forget their problems and turn to the river to celebrate, encourage the swimmers and be part of this celebration. Having a river as important as the Paraná is at the root of Argentina’s love for open water swimming.
Tell us about the Hernandarias – Paraná?. Aside of being the longest race, is it also the hardest?
The Hernandarias Paraná in 2009 took me 10 hours 20 minutes to swim the 88 kilometers. It was a race that should have been cancelled. There was a very strong southeasterly wind, which is the worst for swimming in the Parana river. I won the race but I had some difficult moments, especially the last 5 km, where I suffered from cramps and vomiting. That race was hard, but I don’t think as hard as the swims in the cold Canadian waters. Lake St Jean, with its majestic 32km race, receives us with hostility every year and we have to prepare body and mind for this challenge every season.
What is it that you most enjoy in open water swimming?
I enjoy not having to fight against the clock, or having to stare at the line at the bottom of the pool. I like to discover new sensations in different natural environments, compete intensely against my opponents and against the difficulties that nature puts in front of us. I like that each race has its own particular difficulty, and that I need to have a specific preparation for each one. This makes this sport truly unique.
Are there any animals out there that you don’t particularly like to swim into?
Animals don’t bother me, except jellyfish. During the races I have no problems with animals. I get very focused on the race itself and don’t pay too much attention to other things. I have run into sea lions and although everybody says that they are harmless, when you see them, they do command respect!
What are your biggest strengths as an open water swimmer? Any area that you would like to improve?
I think my strengths are my mental toughness and my desire to always improve. Technique is my weak point. I try to improve, but with so many kilometers of swimming per day, it’s not easy. It’s never too late though.
What are the ocean conditions and distances in which you most excel as a competitive swimmer?
The races that are 25km or longer are the best for me. I like swimming in cold water and I don’t mind swimming with waves. I think that the worse the conditions, the better for me. I sometimes suffer from stomach problems and dizziness in the waves, but in the last two years it has gotten better.
What do you think about during your races?
I try to stay focused on the event, think about my race, on what is going on with my rivals, and think about things that motivate me, like my wife, my family, my coach, friends and colleagues. I try to block all that does not help me, although during the first hour of each race of 8 or 9 hours, I inevitably wonder why I’ve gotten into this…hehe! but I enjoy thinking about the finish line, the people waiting for us to greet us with affection. This helps me to keep going.
Have you ever been afraid in the water?
In 2002 in a race in China, I got scared in a 25 km race. I was very young and did not have much experience. There were lots of jellyfish and strong waves. I laugh now when I remember that I stopped another competitor and asked him if he minded if I swam with him until the end of the race. As I gained more experience, I learned to tune off my fears and enjoy what is around me.
What do you drink and eat in the races?
I always drink Carbohydrates. In the long races I drink 300 cl of a carbohydrate beverage, about ¼ liter every 15 minutes. Every hour I eat bananas. I also drink some gel with a bit of caffeine when I’m near the end to to finish strong.
How much do you swim per week? How much in the pool and how much in open water?
I normally train a minimum of 80 km a week, and a maximum of 115 km per week in altitude training. I normally do not train in the ocean. I do everything in the pool because that’s where I have a total control of the rythms and technique. If I go swimming in the ocean, it’s just out of pure pleasure. On a weekly basis, I have 11 training sessions in the pool, 3 sessions in the gym and run 3 times a week. Other important aspects of my training are to eath healthy and go to sleep early.
Your wife is Esther Nuñez, open water FINA world champion. Lots of talent in this marriage. Do you compete with her? What have you learned from her and viceversa?
We do not compete … well, sometimes in workouts, but the reality is that we help each other out a lot on a daily basis and we try to continue growing and getting better, both of us and together. It’s good that the two of us do the same thing. Many hours of training and work every day. It is hard for someone who does not dedícate so many hours to this to understand us. I learned from her to get my head down when things get tough and work harder to reach my goals, to enjoy my daily workouts, the races and all that we can do together. What has she learned from me? This is what she says: “I learned from him to keep my cool, to keep on fighting when there is pain, and to be happy”.
What has the water taught you for your life outside of it?
I think that my main learning is to be perseverent, fight for what I want, be polite and respectful.
What do you think of what Marnaton has done for the development of open water swimming in Catalonia?
I think it’s great. Marnaton is making this sport better know, allowing people to discover this beautiful sport, particularly in Catalonia. Many people are finding a special motivation to improve themselves year after year and take part of the various open water challenges.
And, to end up, in Open Water Source (Damian Blaum Travels the World) I found a list of some of the places around the world where Damian has competed in. Pretty impressive:
Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli , Italia (36 km) 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012
Marathon de Cancún, México (15 km) 2012
Santa Fe – Corondo, Argentina (57 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Rosario, Argentina (15 km) 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Sabăc Marathon Swim, Serbia (19 km) 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011
Traversée international du lac St-Jean, Canadá, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
Setubal, Portugal, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2006, 2011
Santos , Brazil, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2011
Repulse Bay, Hong Kong (10 km) 2005
Hernandarias – Parana, Argentina (88 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011
Ohrid Lake Marathon, Macedonia (30 km) 2007, 2008, 2010
Traversée International du lac Memphrémagog, Canadá, FINA World Cup (34 km) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
Cañon del Sumidero Marathon, México (15 km) 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Abu Dhabi FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix, UAE (15 km) 2005, 2009
Sharjah FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix , UAE (10 km) 2009
Dubai, UAE, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005, 2009
Al Fujairah, UAE, FINA World Cup (10 km) 2005
La Patagones – Viedma UAE, FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix (15 km) 2008, 2009 Marathon de Cancún, México (10 km) 2008
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Sevilla (10 km) 2008
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Barcelona (10 km) 2003
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Montreal (10 km) 2005
FINA Open Water Swimming Championships , Melbourne (10 km) 2007
London (10 km) 2005, 2006
Sevilla Marathon, España (10 km Sevilla) 2006