The 16th running of OTILLO Swimrun World Championships was the fastest one in history. Athletes cover a total of 75k including 10k of open water swimming and 65k of overland running traversing 24 islands in the Stockholm Archipelago.
Records fell across the board in the men’s, women’s, and mixed categories, a combination of stronger-than-ever competition coupled with extremely favorable weather and course conditions. September in the Stockholm Archipelago often delivers cold air, a strong likelihood of rain, and a cold and often rumbling Baltic Sea. But on Monday, the sun was out, the sea was calm, and the winds pushed athletes down course.
The race starts on the island of Sandhamn, with all the nervous energy and anticipation for the day ahead.
Australian Adriel Young won the men’s category with teammate Oscar Olsson in 2021, and this year opted to race in the Mixed category with Sweden’s Amanda Nilsson.
16 Americans were on the start line, most having qualified through OTILLO’s points ranking system.
Once the starting gun is fired, the field is kept together in a neutral start through the sleepy island of Sandhamn before the day’s first (and longest) swim.
The opening swim is the only part of the day that remotely resembles a triathlon mass start, but that is where the similarities end; in Swimrun, the athlete’s kit includes hand paddles, pull buoy and swimming with your shoes.
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The mile long opening swim does create separation amongst the teams, but there is still some congestion as athletes travel across a few short, technical islands, composed of slippery rocks.
Desiree Andersson is the top female athlete racing Swimrun, with multiple world championship titles to her name in both mixed and women’s categories. This year, the Swede raced in the mixed category with Swedish professional triathlete Alexander Berggren and the duo shattered the course record to win in 7:49:54.
In the early stages, athletes are still relatively fresh and grouped closely together so care must be taken on the rocks.
OTILLO has other events throughout the world, and some have a solo division. However, the race was originally raced in pairs, and that is still the way it is raced at the World Champs.
Many of the swim entrances are highly technical in which athletes must scale down large rocks to get to the water. It is always strongly encouraged for teams to take a few moments and locate the swim exit flags so they know where to swim.
The majority of the 10k swimming at the OTILLO World Championships comes in the first half of the race. Athletes are often met with stiff currents, choppy waves, and cold temps. But the Baltic Sea was calm on race day this year.
Swim exits can be equally difficult with slippery rocks to contend with. Athletes are always being tested to strike a balance to move quickly yet carefully.
Large portions of the course feature exposed rock which can be extremely slippery when wet. Lightweight trail running shoes with grippy rubber lugs are strongly encouraged.
With 23 swim entrances, some are bound to be a bit more fun than others.
Private landowners provide unprecedented access to the race organizers for OTILLO, but some rules must be followed. One section in particular takes athletes through two gates, which must be opened and closed by each team, to keep a flock of sheep from fleeing the property.
Energy stations are positioned throughout the course and managed by a volunteer network largely made up of local islanders.
Organizers mark the entire course in a way which makes it easy enough for athletes to follow the route. Swimrun still requires each team be diligent in navigating, as it is not the role of volunteers to point athletes in the right direction. Instead, it is the responsibility of the team.
One section of the run course even includes a rope to assist athletes climbing down a steep rock section.
One of the swim passages was so shallow, athletes chose to run instead of swim.
The last handful of islands are very small, yet very technical, and the swim passages are also very short, but with powerful currents ripping through the narrow channels. Athletes are advised to take note of the direction the current is moving before entering the water.
Final Results: OTILLO Swimrun World Championships
1. Max Andersson (SWE) and Hugo Tormento (FRA), 7:00:59
2. Maxime Picaut (FRA) and William Even (FRA), 7:42:47
3. Kenny Meijer (SWE) and Lars Ekman (SWE), 7:48:38
1. Helen Sivertsson (SWE) and Ulrika Eriksson (SWE), 8:35:55
2. Evelina Jarvnen (SWE) and Threse Bergling (SWE), 8:50:20
3. Aline Tavernier (FRA) and Julia Moustakir (FRA), 9:08:39
1. Desiree Anndersson (SWE) and Alexander Berggren (SWE), 7:49:54
2. Adriel Young (AUS) and Amanda Nilsson (SWE), 7:59:09
3. Alexis Charrier (FRA) and Sabina Rapeli (SWI), 8:08:39