… I am being pummeled by other competitors?
If you have great sprinting speed, it may help to start out fast and get away from other swimmers. If swimming is not your strength, it may be better to start off easy and let the stronger swimmers start just a few seconds before you so you can swim at your pace without the chaos at the start. If you do get into a situation where you have a couple swimmers on you, stay calm. As tough as it is not to react and get angry, stay within yourself and let the rough swimmers go on and move over to another spot. Getting angry will waste too much precious energy at the beginning of the race. Remember that most swimmers want their space just as much as you, so stay calm, swim smart and have fun!