European champion Domenico Acerenza of Italy and France’s team world champion Oceane Cassignol claimed the titles at the second leg of the LEN Open Water Cup in Piombino.
Cool waters and waves awaited the swimmers at the rocky coastline in Piombino, a traditional stop in the LEN OWS Cup – still, more than 100 athletes in total lined up for the starts of the two races.
The men’s competition was dominated by the Italians, even though their top star Gregorio Paltrinieri opted to come out from the water soon after passing the halfway mark, due to health issues related to the cold water. His training partner and European title-holder Domenico Acerenza went all the way, though – after ‘travelling’ in the chasing group, he burst to the front in the last lap and hit the panel with a relatively comfortable 1.5sec winning margin. Behind him it was a real battle for the minor spoils as four swimmers stormed in in a span of 0.5sec. At the end two of the hosts’ youngsters Andrea Filadelli and Ivan Giovannoni had the best-timed touches, but after reviewing the photo finish veteran Mario Sanzullo could also join them to share the bronze.
While the men’s event was an Italian feast with the top seven spots all being grabbed by the home swimmers, the women’s party was ruined by Oceane Cassignol. The Frenchwoman outsmarted her rivals over the last metres and won by two seconds. Ginevra Taddeucci and Barbara Pozzobon, who had been leading for most of the time, had to settle for the silver and the bronze respectively.
It was a demanding race which saw more than 30 swimmers signalling for an early exit due to the tough conditions. Fifty of the bravest among the men and 22 among the women still made it to the finish line.
However, it was still a calm and peaceful gathering compared to the 25km event at the 2022 European Championships in Rome last summer which had to be halted due to the severe weather conditions. Back then no medal-winners were declared – then, after a post-event reassessment, LEN decided to stick to the rules and determine the final rankings. And with all the medal winners taking part in the Saturday races as well, the Rome medals and mascots were handed over to them here, by LEN President Antonio da Silva. That made Mauro Sanzullo extra happy since he could leave the site with two medals – and just like in the LEN Cup, the women’s gold went to France, Caroline Jouisse could step onto the top of the podium.
Domenico Acerenza (ITA), winner, men’s 10km: “The conditions were difficult, but this is open water swimming, we have to be good at adapting to all temperatures. I applied a different tactic than usual. I stayed covered until halfway through the race and then took the lead from the fifth lap. I’m happy because it wasn’t easy to win today and because my condition isn’t yet the best as I’m still missing a bit of speed.”
Oceane Cassignol (FRA), winner, women’s 10km: “I felt great before the race and during it as well. It was much better than on Monday in Egypt (at the World Series) where I had been a bit worried as I had broken my nose two weeks ago. Today this did not affect my race at all, so could swim freely and I’m really happy that I could win this event. It’s a good boost before the summer season.”
Mario Sanzullo (ITA), 2022 European champion, 25km: “After nine months, now I’m European champion, so this is my happy day! It was a very tough race last August but at least our efforts were recognised at the end.”
Caroline Jouisse (FRA), 2022 European champion, 25km: “The emotions are not the same as if we had received the medals on the same day of the race. It’s a bit of weird feeling, it was tough day, a unique situation, but it’s good to get the medals after all.”