3000 swimmers took the plunge in Alton Water near Ipswich on 19 June as the Great East Swim, the first event of this summers Great Swim Series, got underway. Elite and recreational swimmers alike enjoyed a one mile swim in Open Water.
British world champion Kerri-Anne Payne won the elite women’s race in spectacular style. Payne, who won silver in the 10k open water event at the Beijing Olympics, was stroke for stroke with the Czech Republic’s Jana Pechanova throughout the one-mile race.
But she powered ahead with just metres remaining to win a close call against the woman who placed 8th in the Beijing 10k.
Payne, who won last year’s world title, is no stranger to the British Gas Great Swim Series, having been runner-up in last year’s British Gas Great North Swim at Windermere in the Lake District.
Third place at Alton Water went to another top British swimmer, Cassie Patten, who was second behind Payne at the worlds and the bronze medallist in Beijing.
Payne said: “I’m delighted to have won. It was a great race. I just tried to take it as easy as I could and then put my head down for the last 50m and go for it.”
The elite men’s race, also swum over a one-mile course, was just as close with Belgium’s Tom Vangeneugden and Aussie Ky Hurst leading for much of the way.
However, Hurst made a decisive break with around 100m to go and despite a brave effort from the Belgian, who was also runner-up in last year’s British Gas Great East Swim, hung on for a great win.
Fellow Aussie Brendan Capell, the world 25k champion, was hot on the heels of the front duo throughout but had to settle for third.
Hurst, the seven-time Australian Ironman champion, said: “It’s a great feeling to have won. Tom and I were neck and neck for pretty much the whole race and I was glad that I had saved my legs for a real push at the end.
“This is a fantastic event. Swimming is really strong in Australia but we don’t really have an event on this scale with so many people and such a great atmosphere.
“I’m competing in the other Great Swims this summer and I can’t wait.”
Video from the start of the Green wave (1m 37s, flashplayer required to view)
Event organisers Nova International offer their deepest sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of a female swimmer who tragically died following the race.