Brunemann Honors Crippen with World Cup Win
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
After competing in seven races around the world this year – a circuit that began in January and ended last week – Emily Brunemann has finally done it.
Inspired by a season-long goal, Brunemann, a post-graduate swimmer based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has won the overall 2013 FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup.
It was a feat for the swimmer who, until she made the National Team, had to pay for her own travel to many competitions – and her coach’s, too.
“I had a rough year last year, not really being at the level I wanted to be. I didn’t make the National Team last year. Financially, that was difficult,” Brunemann said. “My parents have helped out a lot. I got a grant from the USOC that helped. And frequent flier miles from United.”
Brunemann competed in seven races in seven countries in 10 months. That’s quite a lot of international travel. She’s competed everywhere around the world, from Argentina to Hong Kong, a location she considers among her favorites. Most open water races on the World Cup occur in couplets, allowing swimmers to travel to one region for two-week periods with seven days between events.
“I find it better that they’ll put two races together,” Brunemann said. “Then there’s more time between double races.”
To recover after the first race and before the second, Brunemann had to listen to her body. Generally, she tries to find a local place to receive a post-race massage. She knows she’s older than she used to be, which means recovery can be a longer process than it was during her teenage years.
“I’m not too concerned about getting in yardage in between those two-week competitions,” Brunemann said. “It’s more about listening to my body. If I swim 3k and I’m tired, I’ll stop.”
Brunemann was adamant to add that this year-long quest was a continuation to honor teammate Fran Crippen, who died during an open water race in 2010. She credits Crippen for teaching her everything she knows about open water racing and its strategy, proving Crippen’s legacy continues to make a lasting impact today.
“Every race I go to, I think about Fran,” Brunemann said. “Every race. I don’t think I’ve swam a race where I haven’t thought about him.”
While Brunemann is pleased to see some safety improvements in many open water races since Fran’s death, she’d like to see water quality improvements world-wide. Once, during an open water race in a river in China, Brunemann and several other swimmers fell very ill.
“I know we’re open water swimmers, and there are variables and risks when you’re open water swimming, but when there are races where multiple people get ill, that’s a sign the water quality is not a standard they claim,” she said.
Brunemann would also like to see more major open water races come to the United States, something she hopes will happen soon.
“I know we’re trying to put one on next year, which would be a great step forward, but it’s hard to get it going,” she said.
For now, Brunemann takes a break. It’s her first since, well, she can’t remember when – 2009? 2010?
Her break will be an earned two-week respite away from the pool. Following that, Brunemann will hop back into training at the University of Michigan and set her eyes on defending her World Cup title next season, in addition to, hopefully, qualifying for the Pan Pacific Championships.
When I asked her if she would recommend the open water path for younger swimmers out there, Brunemann was passionate:
“I definitely recommend open water swimming [to younger swimmers],” Brunemann said. “You don’t always have to be the fastest swimmer to be a good open water swimmer. It may be a different avenue for those who might struggle with pool swimming.”
Brunemann likes to share her passion for the sport, another lesson she was taught by her mentor, Fran Crippen. Next year, when she hops back into the swirling, open water currents, she’ll undoubtedly think of him once again.
“Fran taught me everything I know,” Brunemann said. “I think everyone one of us continues to talk about him and what he did, his drive and dedication and passion for open water. Talking about him to younger swimmers or amongst ourselves constantly keeps his memory and passion for the sport alive.”