HONOLULU, November 4. EUROPEAN swimmers dominated the final event of the First FINA World Open Water Open Water Swimming Championships, taking the all the medals in both the men's and women's 25 kilometer race, swum today off Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii. The gruelling event is the equivalent of a 100 kilometer (62-mile) run.
Russia's Yuri Koudinov and Alexei Akatiev finished one-three in the men's event, as the versatile David Meca of Spain placed second. Holland's Edith Van Dyk won her second gold medal of this inaugural world championship by winning the women's event, ahead of
Viola Valli of Italy and Germany's Angela Maurer.
Russia won the overall men's team title while Italy captured the women's team crown.
Koudinov, the men's champion, said the race was "most
difficult for me because of the waves, but I was able
to move forward after the fourth lap of the course."
His teammate Akatiev and Meca kept the pressure on during the final lap of the race, as the led changed hands several times.
Eventually Koudinov pulled away to win in 4 hours, 55
minutes, 51.12 seconds. Meca finished 20 seconds later, with Akatiev another 42 seconds back.
Meca, Spain's only swimmer in the championship meet,
single-handedly scored 50 points, enough for his nation
to win the silver medal in the team competition. In addition to his second place in the 25K, Meca won gold in the 10K and silver in the 5K. "I was planning to catch him (Koudinov)," Meca said after the race. I got very, very close to him, but I had already swam three races and I was tired."
"It was the most difficult race of my life said Akatiev, the 5K & 25K world champion in the 1998 FINA World Championships in Perth, Australia. "I tried to shorten the distance between me and my teammate but the waves kept pushing me back. I was not prepared for these conditions."
Leonard Mark was the top American, finishing thirteenth in 5:06:24.72. John Kenny was sixteenth (5:18:40.44).
The women's event was even closer than the men's, with
only two seconds separating the top two swimmers and the third place finisher another two seconds behind. But when all was said and swum, it was Holland's Edith Van Dyk who emerged the winner, earning her second gold medal of the competition. On Thursday, she took the 10K.
Van Dyk finished in 5 hours, 30 minutes, 4.07 seconds.
Italy's Viola Valli, who brought her own personal
cheering section to Hawaii, touched in 5:30:06.06, while Germany's Angela Maurer finished precisely two seconds later.
For more than four hours a pack of ten swimmers swam
within four body lengths of each other, often swimming
in single file, before the three eventual medalists
put some open water between themselves and the rest of
the field. Those three continued to battle stroke-for-stroke for the rest of the exciting race.
Van Dyk commented "the swim to Diamond Head was the
most difficult part of the race taking into account
the wind, current and the waves."
Regan Scheiber was the top American, placing sixth in
5:32:11.15. Briley Bergen, the US national champion,
was tenth in 5:52:01.82.
Commenting on today's events, Sid Cassidy, assistant
referee and member of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee said about the meet's final event: "Without question, this was the greatest marathon field ever assembled."
Russia won the men's team title, followed by Spain and
Italy. Italy took the women's title, with Germany second and Holland third.