ABU DHABI, March 25. After almost three hours of intense, arm-swinging, elbow-butting, leg-kicking battle, the men's 16K (10-mile) race at the second stop of the FINA Marathon Swimming World Cup on March 20 came down to two Russians and a German.
It was a rare sight. Most open water marathons are won by minutes, but this baby featured a stroke-for-stroke brouhaha among the three deep water denizens.
Vladimir Diattchine, Evgueni Koshkarov and Thomas Lurz were competing for the top prize in the warm waters off the coast of Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. At the end, it was Diattchine who had the most left, and he powered into the shore in two hours, 51 minutes, 14 seconds — three seconds ahead of his compatriot and another two seconds ahead of the German.
The women's race, which went a few minutes longer than three hours was even closer. At the finish, it was Italy's Viola Valli who took home the gold, beating Germany's Britta Kamrau by the margin of one hundredth of a second!
These two competitors are used to these duels: in Fukuoka 2001, during the 9th FINA World Championships, the Italian got the gold medal in the 5 and 25 km (Kamrau was fourth in the longeer distance); in the 2nd FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships last year in Sharm El Sheikh, Valli was again first in the 5 km, but the German took her revenge in the 10 km.
Amongst the men, the Russian duet — Koshkarov was world champion in Sharm el Sheikh in the 10 km — confirmed the country’s superiority in this discipline (five athletes in the first 11 classified of the race). Thomas Lurz (GER) was third and Petar Stoytchev (BUL, second in Argentina) finished fourth.
A total of 46 swimmers participated in the Abu Dhabi event: 26 men from 12 countries and 20 women from 14 nations.
The next stop in the 2003 Marathon World Cup will take place in Hurghada, Egypt, on March 27. The race will be a veritable sprint: only 10K (6.2 miles).
1. Vladimir Diattchine (RUS) 2h51m14s
2. Evgueni Koshkarov (RUS), 2h51m17s
3. Thomas Lurz (GER), 2h51m19s
1. Viola Valli (ITA), 3h07m57.93s
2. Britta Kamrau (GER), 3h07m57.94s
3. Natalia Pankina (RUS) 3h08m23s