Thursday night, Meyer spoke by telephone to Crippen’s parents. They wished him luck. And they told him to be safe.
“There were some tears,” Meyer said, declining to elaborate further. “But it was good to talk to them.”
And each lap that Meyer swam past the section of the lake where his relatives, friends and former Crimson teammates stood and cheered on Friday, his thoughts turned to Crippen.
“Every time I swam by there, I had a little surge of energy,” Meyer said. “So I was thinking about that stuff a little bit, but focused on the race for the majority of the time.”
Long-distance open-water swims are a grueling test of strength, stamina and mental resolve. But the setting for Friday’s race could hardly have been more sublime.
The rectangular Serpentine Lake, which King George II had created at the request of Queen Caroline in the 1730s, is situated in the heart of London’s verdant Hyde Park, with Kensington Gardens on its west bank and Kensington Palace just beyond.
Each of the 25 competitors was introduced, then lined up shoulder-to-shoulder on the pontoon that marked the start. At the sound of a horn, they dove into the murk and took off for the first buoy. It was mayhem from every vantage point, an eruption of elbows and feet and colored swim caps bobbing up and down amid the wild splashing.
Meyer’s strategy was to keep the leaders within range, yet take advantage of the slipstream created in their wake so he could conserve his energy for a final charge.
But after dropping to 14th, stuck in the middle of the pack, he was fighting himself as well as everyone ahead of him,.
“I was battling some pretty negative thoughts on the last lap,” Meyer said. “I was trying to keep those subdued, but I just didn’t have it at the end.”
Meantime, Mellouli only got stronger at the front, with no one in his way and Lurz and Weinberger several lengths behind.
“What happened today was a miracle,” a triumphant Mellouli said, “if you believe in miracles.”