The open water swimming conditions at the Kazan rowing basin on Wednesday morning at the 2013 World University Games were near-ideal, with water temperatures varying but topping out at around 29 degrees Celsius over the four-lap, 10-kilometer course, but the times were still a bit slower than expected for a relatively inexperienced field.
First off was the women’s race, set off at 9am local time, where American Ashley Twichell took a relatively-comfortable gold medal in 2:05:00.9 seconds, putting her roughly 30 seconds ahead of Italy’s Aurora Ponselle (2:09:31.9).
Twichell has been the victim of bad luck in her two years of open water racing; she was 4th in last year’s Olympic qualifying race, but as the second American finisher was ineligible, and then this year at the US World Championship Trials, she got caught behind a bit of a chaotic and rough field and failed to qualify for Worlds.
This race will be another important step on her journey, though, as her very young open water career continues to develop.
The bronze medal went to Croatia’s Karla Sitic, with the second American Emily Brunemann finishing 4th in 2:05:34.4. The silver-medal-through-4th-place positions weren’t decided until swimmers were in the chute and lunging for the pad.
The men’s race was won in a mild upset by Italy’s Matteo Furlan, whose best international performance is a 3rd-place finish at January’s stop on the Open Water World Cup circuit in Santos, with a 1:56.12. The lead pack of the men’s race began to overtake some of the trailers of the women’s creating an interesting drafting scenario, but the times were still 5 or so minutes behind where we usually see elite races finish in this type of course.
Furlan took gold ahead of France’s Roman Beraud and Germany’s Andreas Waschburger, who were two and four seconds back, respectively. Waschburger was by far the favorite in this race, having placed 8th in the Olympics last year (and he actually led two full laps of that Olympic race), but this speaks to the unpredictability of open water swimming.
The top American finisher Ryan Feeley was 10th, a minute-and-a-half back of the leaders, and the other Joey Pedraza was 14th, two minutes behind the leaders.