The Tennessee River will play host to some of the finest open water swimmers from around the world when racers burst onto the scene of the Open Water Swim/2019 USMS Marathon.
The competition will be held in Knoxville on September 22, with racers jumping from the Star of Knoxville riverboat to kick-start the proceedings. They’ll then have four hours to complete the 6.2 mile course, dubbed the Bridges to Bluffs 10K race.
Course landmarks include downtown bridges, Neyland Drive, Cherokee Farms and Sequoyah Hills Park.
Proceeds from the event return to the Knoxville community via donations to the West High School Navy Junior ROTC Program and the Knoxville Open Water Swimmers. This group, founded in 2016 by Jack McAfee and Blaik Ogle, promotes open water swimming, conservation and cleanup of the downtown waterfront, and has quickly put Knoxville on the map as a destination for marathon swimmers across the country.
“This event is the perfect opportunity to showcase the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville as a venue in and of itself,” said Chad Culver, Senior Director of the Visit Knoxville Sports Commission. “Hosting Olympic athletes in this championship speaks to the quality of this competitive course.”
The event is catered to marathon swimmers, making it unlike any other in the area. A marathon swim is essentially “a parade on the water” with each swimmer having a pilot (kayaker or paddle board) escort. The field projects to be vastly competitive with 175 swimmers from 31 states and two countries. There is a wide range of athletes from Triple Crown Ultra Marathon swimmers (26 mi. English Channel, 26 mi. Catalina Channel, and 28.5 mi. circumnavigation of Manhattan Island), solo marathon swimmers who’ve piloted “first” crossing of various lakes and ocean channels, and former Olympians, including champion Ashley Whitney, who won a Gold Medal in the 1996 Olympic Games.
The race is the first of its kind and the event sold all 115 available slots in under 24 hours. Due to the demand, a second cruise was opened to accommodate another 60 swimmers, which also sold out in record time. This the only USMS Championship race to sell out and have the largest field to date.