By Guy Gargan
ATLANTIC CITY, September 13. ALAN Bircher of England wasn't one of the most well-known swimmers in the Speedo 10K For The USA FINA World Cup race on Saturday afternoon. Many of the observers in the boats accompanying the swimmers didn't know who he was, only that the flag of England was on his blue swimming cap.
Bircher, 22, took a good lead early in the race, only to fall back into the pack in the "mile stretch" in the Ventnor intracoastal waterway. It all seemed logical as the race's big names went past him.
Surprise! Bircher re-emerged as a contender in the race with about a mile to go in the 6.2-mile race, and he won it in 1 hour, 52 minutes, 12 seconds. Bircher, of Bath, a city on the southern coast of England, overtook leader Grant Cleland of Australia with over a half-mile left in the race and won by 10 yards. Jakub Fichtl of the Czech Republic finished third, 30 yards behind Cleland.
"I started fast but then I sat back and waited after I got to the mile stretch," Bircher said. "I started to kick at the (Albany Avenue) bridge. It took a lot to the Argentinian (Damian Blaum) and the Australian. but I always have a good sprint finish. Coming around the island (Fenton island on Iowa Avenue, a half-mile from the finish), I knew I had enough (to win)."
Sara McLarty of DeLand, Fla., won the FINA women's division in 2:05:04. McLarty, a former Southeastern Conference champion at the University of Florida, rallied to beat Britta Kamrau of Germany by two seconds. Germany's Angela Maurer was two seconds behind Kamrau in third.
"I swam around the (Fenton) island (Friday) and I marked where I wanted to make my move," McLarty said. "I'm going to swim a mile race in San Francisco next weekend for $10,000 (for the winner) and my mother suggested that I get in this race for $4,000. It's very exciting to win. I've got to call home."
The male and female winners each received the $4,000 top prize, while the runnerups earned $2,000, $1,000 was awarded to the third-place finishers, and fourth place earned $500.
A record 49 swimmers — 29 men qand 20 women — finished the race.
1. Alan Bircher, England, 1:52:12
2. Grant Cleland, Australia, 1:52:25
3. Jakub Fichtl, Czech Republic, 1:52:55
4. Stephane Gomez, France, 1:53:00
5. David Creel, Canada, 1:53:01
6. Damian Blaum, Argentina, 1:53:03
7. Eveni Bezruchenko, Russia, 1:53:20
8. Petar Stoychev, Bulgaria, 1:53:22
9. Gabriel Chaillou, Argentina, 1:53:26
10.Jarrod Basllem, Canada, 1:54:45.
1. Sara McLarty, DeLand, Fla., 2:05:04
2. Britta Kamrau, Germany, 2:05:06
3. Angela Maurer, Germany, 2:05:08.31
4. Ivanka Moralieva, Bulgaria, 2:05:08.96
5. Karley Stutzel, Canada, 2:05:09.32
6. Catherine Ware, Canada, 2:05:09.90
7. Yvetta Hlavacova, Czech Republic, 2:05:53
8. Tanya Hunks, Canada, 2:06:20
9. Erica Rose, Erie, Pa., 2:07:40
10. Shelley Clark, Australia, 2:08.