The Brazilian open water swimmers are absolutely on fire.
After taking silver and bronze in the women’s 5km race, Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha moved up to the top two positions in the 10km swim on Tuesday morning: the premier race of the open water schedule.
Neither swimmer led much of this race until the very end, where on the last lap they put in their fastest time, a 28-minute. 47-second 2.5km stretch, to take the win. Okimoto won in 1:58:19.2 and Cunha took 2nd in 1:58:19.5.
Coming into this year’s World Championships, the Brazilians had only won two World Championship open water medals in history. Okimoto took bronze in 2009 in the 5k, and Cunha won the 25k in Shanghai.
They’ve tripled that total already here, and Cunha later will go for her best race in the longer event with a chance to add more hardware.
Germany’s Angela Maurer took the bronze, a second back, in 1:58:20.2, as the biggest veterans of open water swimming ruled the day. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that the three medalists in this race are three women who take in almost every stop of the FINA Open Water 10KM series. Maurer, a true veteran, won her last World Championship medal in the 10km race a decade ago in this very same city at the 2003 event (though she’s done very well in the 25km race since then).
Meanwhile, Greece’s Kalliopi Araouzou was in line at the final pass of the feed station to make a Greek sweep, after her teammate Gianniotis Spyridon won the men’s race on Monday, but in the final dash she got caught in behind the lead and couldn’t get past.
The highest-finishing American was Becca Mann in 1:58:23.4, only 4.2 seconds behind the winner Okimoto, which is a good result for her first open water race of this caliber. She was just ahead of teammate Christine Jennings, who was 10th in 1:58:23.6.
Much like we’ve seen throughout this meet, there was a huge lead pack in this 10km final, meaning that there were some big names who had disappointing place finishes, but still very good times (the top 28 were all better than 1 hour and 59 minutes). That includes the two-time defending champion at this event Keri-Anne Payne, who was 14th in 1:58:25.8 and Olympic champion Eva Ristov, who was 9th in 1:58:23.4.
Spain’s dual-threat Erika Villaecija Garcia in 1:58:27.8 for 17th; and Australia’s Melissa Gorman in 1:58:30.9, plus Martinga Grimaldi, who medaled at both the Olympics and the last World Championships in this event were all in the lead pack as well. None of the expected medal contenders really fell out of that front group. The top 19 swimmers were all in a grouping of just over 9 seconds, which equates to about 11 meters, so tightly-packed indeed.
In a very odd occurrence, none of the three medalists in this race were on the podium in either Shanghai or London, showing how different courses can benefit different swimmers in different ways. Thus far, this seems to be a very technical course that has benefited real veterans and the older swimmers.
The top 10, plus selected other finishers:
Full results available here.
1. Poliana Okimoto, Brazil, 1:58:19.2
2. Ana Marcela Cunha, Brazil, 1:58:19.5
3. Angela Maurer, Germany, 1:58:20.2
4. Kalliopi Araouzou, Greece, 1:58:21.3
5. Anna Olasz, Hungary, 1:58:22
6. Ophelie Aspord, France, 1:58:23.2
7. Yanqiao Fang, China, 1:58:23.2
8. Becca Mann, USA, 1:58:23.4
9. Eva Risztov, Hungary, 1:58:23.4
10. Christine Jennings, USA, 1:58:23.6
12. Martina Grimaldi, Italy, 1:58:24.9
14. Keri-Anne Payne, Great Britain, 1:58:25.8
16. Yurema Requena Juarez, Spain, 1:58:26.4
17. Erika Villaecija-Garcia, Spain, 1:58:27.8
19. Zsofia Balazs, Canada, 1:58:28.5
23. Cara Baker, New Zealand, 1:58:38.5
33. Danielle Huskisson, Great Britain, 2:01:31.5
25. Nadine Williams, Canada, 2:01:50.4