For the second time in as many meets, Britain’s Keri-Anne Payne is the FINA World Champion in the women’s 10km open water swim.
The lead-pack of this race was tight the whole way through, but over the last 100 meters or so three swimmers separated themselves a bit: Payne, Italian Martina Grimaldi, and Greece’s Marianna Lymperta. The three went stroke-for-stroke to the final wire, but in the end it was Payne, who is by far the most versatile open-water swimmer in the field, who spurt past for the win in a photo-finish in 2:01:58.1. Grimaldi was 1.8 seconds back, and Lymperta was 3.7 behind.
Though the medals were significant, many swimmers had something else on their mind: the battle for a top 10 finish. The 10km is the only open water race held at the Olympics, and this World Championship race was the first route for qualifying for the top 10 swimmers. That top 10, who earn automatic berths for London, are:
- Keri-Anne Payne (GBR)
- Martina Grimaldi (ITA)
- Marianna Lymperta (GRE)
- Melissa Gorman (AUS)
- Cecilia Biagioli (ARG)
- Poliana Okimoto (BRA)
- Jana Pechanova (CZE)
- Angela Maurer (GER)
- Swann Oberson (SUI)
- Erika Villaecija Garcia (ESP)
The two Americans finished 13th (Christine Jennings – 26.5 seconds back) and 30th (Eva Fabian – 3 minutes, 43.8 seconds back). The remaining 15 spots for the Olympic race will be handed out at the Olympic Marathon Qualifier that is to be held December 12-14 in Setubal, Portugal.
Jennings’ finish is psychologically significant as she was easily the top-finishing North American competitor (about a minute ahead of Mexico’s Alejandra Gonzalez Lara). At the Olympic Marathon Qualifier, with Payne already earning the automatic host bid, at least 10 spots will go to the top 10 finishers, but each continental champion at that race will also be guaranteed a spot.
With the top 10 finishers coming from 10 unique nations, that guarantees that no nation will earn more than one entry in the Olympics, which is why a top-10 finish here is so significant. Countries who have already qualified a swimmer will not be able to send any athletes to the Olympic qualifier in December. At that qualifier, only the top finisher from each nation is eligible for Olympic qualification.
The next race on the schedule is the equally-important men’s 10k, that will take place tomorrow at the same time (9 AM local Shanghai time, which is 9 PM East Coast US time).