FINA 2009 World Championships Open Water Swimming Day 1

5km events 21 July 2009 – Ostia Beach in Rome

British Gas swimmers found the going tough at the World Championship open water events as the sun beat down on the 5km course off the Italian coast.

Richard Charlesworth finished in 24th place in a race won by Thomas Lurz (GER) who successfully defended his world title from the Melbourne Championships of 2007 to add to his 5km titles from 2005 (Montreal), 2006 (Naples), 2007, and 2008 (Seville). Lurz finished in 56:26.9 ahead of Spyridon Gianniotis (GRE) in 56:27.2. The bronze medal went to Chad Ho (RSA) who clocked 56:41.9.

Speaking after the race, Lurz said: “Over past years I have gained a lot of experience and this helps me to keep my will and anger to win again and again.” Gianniotis, who won bronze in the 5km in Melbourne, had not thought he was fit enough to medal. “This guy,” he said referring to Lurz, “is phenomenal. He is the best in the world in open water. Before, I could only imagine being this close to him.”

An elated Ho bounded from the water and pumped his fists. “It was a big surprise for me (to win a medal),” he said later, smiling. “I am young – 19 years old – I don’t have any experience. I was very lucky, but I used good tactics.” His bronze medal is South Africa’s first ever World Championship open water medal.

Britain’s Charlesworth found the physical side of the event a distraction he couldn’t overcome as he negotiated the 5km race. “That was the most physical race I’ve ever been involved in,” said Charlesworth. “It’s my first World Championships, it’s a bigger event and it was always going to be more demanding as it means more to every swimmer out there. It’s hard to prepare yourself for that but I’m still learning about the open water events. It was different from any other race and it showed because both packs of swimmers were all over the course. I think if one swimmer had chosen the right lines to take around the course then they probably would have won.”

British Gas team mate Alfie Howes finished the course in 59:36 to take 33rd place.

Race Highlights

Lurz took over from Loic Branda (FRA) and settled into an early lead and held his position. He was trailed mainly by Trent Grimsey (AUS) as well as Luca Ferretti, Andrew Gemmell (USA) and Vladimir Dyatchin (ITA). The race was extremely close and the lead often changed. About halfway the lead group moved into a wide “fork” formation, meaning there were essentially two groups of lead swimmers.

Dyatchin moved up to join Lurz at the front, heading up his own group. Gemmell also took turns in the lead, but only temporarily. With 1km left the contenders were Lurz, Gemmell and Dyatchin, but the race continued to be tight. The swimmers started to spread out and Lurz started leading his two or three challengers. Gianniotis and Ho moved up and after 50 minutes, a prolonged intense tussle for gold began. Lurz won by 2m with Ho sprinting through to take bronze.

Bad weather over the weekend had damaged the race infrastructure in place but Omega personnel were able to ensure the competition could begin just two days later.

Click to view results from Day 1

Women’s 5km race

Video 1 of 2 (flashplayer required to view)

Video 2 of 2 (flashplayer required to view)

Britain’s Charlotte Wooliscroft touched home in 59:25 to take 25th spot out of 42. Australia’s Melissa Gorman inflicted Russian favourite Larisa Ilchenko’s first FINA World Championship open water defeat since 2004 by just 0.5s after a sprint finish. Gorman clocked 56:55.8 to Ilchenko’s 56:56.3. Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto (BRA) took bronze in 56:59.3 finishing just ahead of Yurema Requena (ESP) in 57:00.8.

Gorman led a fast-paced race and explained: ““I didn’t particularly want to lead the whole way, but I went out hard to try and get a good position. I settled into a nice pace and I guess no one wanted to challenge me; everyone was happy to sit behind.” Ilchenko was consistently in second place and never far behind.

Ilchenko later said she had a problem with her left leg very early in the race; an untimely recurrence of an old injury, limiting her ability to sprint for the win. When she made her first stretch for the finish, she missed, and felt the extra stroke likely cost her the title.

Race Highlights

Thirty minutes and 3km into the course, there were two groups of swimmers. The first group – led by Gorman and Ilchenko – was about 20m ahead.

With 1km left to go, Okimoto and Requena had moved up among the leaders. Forty-five minutes in and this leading group started to distance themselves from the rest with Ilchenko also changing her rhythm causing reaction from her opponents.

With just 400m to go, Ilchenko attacked, closing in on Gorman in the lead, while Requena and Okimoto battled for bronze. Gorman hung on: “It has given me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the meet and I hope it will spur on the rest of the Australian swimmers.”