By USA Swimming | Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Season 2, episode 3 of “Off the Blocks” will premiere Thursday, May 2, at noon, Mountain Time, onsftest.usaswimming.org and on USA Swimming’s YouTube channel.
This episode will feature two of USA Swimming’s most prominent open water swimmers – Olympians Haley Anderson and Jordan Wilimovsky – and serve as a preview to the 2019 Open Water National Championships, which begins Friday in Miami.
“Off the Blocks” executive producer and USA Swimming’s director of media properties, Jim Rusnak, talks a little bit about what went down behind the scenes of this episode:
First, how has “Off the Blocks” been going this year?
Rusnak: It’s exceeded expectations. We launched our first episode with Caeleb Dressel at the beginning of March, and it just killed with the number of views we got for the full episode on YouTube. After only two months online, it’s already received 106,500 views and counting. It’s even surpassed episode 2 from last summer in view, which is pretty amazing given the short time it’s been up.
Then we launched episode 2 with Kathleen Baker, which is also keeping pace with almost 35,000 views in three weeks’ time.
The biggest thing for me is that it’s starting to really get recognized in the swimming community. You can see it in the YouTube comments – everybody is just waiting for the next episode. When we were out filming episode 3 with Jordan and Haley, one of the kids on Jordan’s team saw all the cameras and got really excited and asked, “Is this for ‘Off the Blocks?’” He was just so psyched to see us at his pool.
Why open water for episode 3?
Rusnak: Our Open Water National Championships this year marks the beginning of the Olympic selection process for our swimmers. The top two men and women in Friday’s 10k race will go on to represent the U.S. at the 10k open water event at the FINA World Championships in July. If they finish among the top 10 at Worlds, they will qualify for the 2020 Olympic Team. So while a lot of eyes are on next year’s Olympic Trials in the pool, we could have the first four swimmers qualify for the Olympic Team by mid-July of this year. I don’t have to tell you – that’s a big deal.
What were some of the challenges with this episode?
Rusnak: One of the biggest challenges was getting open water footage of Jordan and Haley. Typically, they don’t train in the open water – mostly in the pool. But we needed open water footage of them, so we asked if they could maybe get in and splash around for us at the beach in Santa Monica, California. I think a lot of people have this image of California as some kind of sand-and-sun, tropical paradise, but the Pacific Ocean off the coast in March is chilly – and the weather didn’t cooperate much, either. But they were troopers. They put on their wet suits and got the job done – no complaints. We had National Team Open Water Director Bryce Elser and some lifeguards on hand to make sure everything was safe. I think that says a lot about the mentality of open water swimmers. They are not divas. They are tough. They get in there, put their heads down and grind it out – even if conditions are less than ideal.
What’s next for this season?
Rusnak: In order to put this episode out before Open Water Nationals, we needed to move the production schedule ahead a bit. We are releasing this one a little earlier, so the space between this one and episode 4 is going to be a little longer. I can say the next one will follow a prominent National Team member at the TYR Pro Swim in Bloomington. Then we will wrap up the season in July with a fifth episode right before the FINA World Championships.