Open water dreams

This is my Fair Play column for SunStar Cebu’s May 8 edition.

During the launch of the Olango Swim Challenge, the country’s longest running open water swimming event, the organizers hoped that folks all over the country would copy their event and hold their own open water swimming contests.

They were hopeful because, well, we live in an archipelago, a beach, for most of us, is just 10 to 20 minutes away.

They were hopeful also because of the goal of their event, for an archipelago, the number of people who know how to swim is low and the incidents of drowning are high. They wanted that to change.

They were hopeful, too, because in 2008, a year after the first edition of the Olango Swim Challenge, the 10-kilometer open water swimming would become an Olympic event.

We could also discover the next Olympian among the participants?

Though the event would become the longest-running open water competition in the country, copycat events never sprouted and I guess one participant’s simple explanation that “swimming in the open sea” is a hundred times more difficult and more challenging than swimming in the pool explains why.

We’ve had open water advocates–Ingemar Macarine, known as the Pinoy Aquaman, and lately Cleevan Alegres, known as the Little Merman who swam around Mactan just this month–but open water swimming hasn’t really taken off.

Sure, the Olango Swim Challenge stayed its course, that is until the pandemic hit us, but it seemed like a lone voice in the wilderness.

That’s why I got excited when I read Pinamungajan will host its own event, the PJ Garcia Open Water Challenge on June 5. It’s a bit shorter than the 6-kilometer event of Olango with only the 3K and 2K categories, but it’s perfect to spur interest in open water swimming.

Baby steps as they would call it.

CAN YOU MUSTER THIS? Here’s the route for the 1-kilometer category of the PJ Open Water Challenge. (Image from PJ Open Watter Facebook account)

And, like the guys involved in the first edition of the Olango Swim Challenge, I hope other town officials along the many beach fronts in Cebu Province who will read about the Pinamungajan event will think, “Hey, this is something we can do also.”

Which brings me back to the hopes and dreams of the organizers of the first open water swimming event.

To raise awareness to the incidence of drowning.

To increase the number of open water swimmers.

To discover the first Pinoy open water Olympic swimmer.

Here’s to more open water events in Cebu, so we can continue our open water dreams.

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