By Steven Munatones, Swimming World Special Correspondent
SEVILLE, Spain, May 4. SIMILAR to the women's 10K championship yesterday, a British Olympic pool swimmer led the entire way until a savvy Russian surged at the end to claim the gold at the 2008 FINA World Open Water Championships. David Davies dragged the entire lead pack of over 40 men around four loops of the 10K course in Seville. Swimming consistently at 41-43 strokes per minutes, Davies lifted up his head every 20-50 strokes as he led the field.
During the first few loops, Grant Hackett of Australia, Thomas Lurz of Germany and Valerio Cleri of Italy were frequently in and out of the second group on Davies' feet. But immediately following the trio of Hackett, Lurz and Cleri, there was a massive unmovable mass of swimmers representing every continent. Whether it was the front half or back half of each loop in the still-water course, the mass was surging and battling on every stroke, around every turn buoy and at each feeding station.
Throughout the first three loops, Chip Peterson of North Carolina was in the third 4-wide (i.e., four athletes swimming together shoulder-to-shoulder) only a body or two from the leaders, drafting in their wake. Mark Warkentin of Santa Barbara was patient and feeding well, bouncing between either the fourth or fifth 6-wide behind the leaders. With a lead pack of 40+ swimmers giving it their all and Olympic berths on the line, both Chip and Mark were well-positioned.
On the back half of the last loop, Davies took off and took Dyatchin and Lurz with him. The lead pack was now stretched out and shedding swimmers off the back end. Spaniards, Dutch, Italians, Australians and at least swimmers from 12 other countries were all fighting for position and trying not to be lopped off the back end of the pack.
"I got worried on the back half. I did not want to lose contact (with the swimmers ahead of him) and I thought I wouldn't be able to catch up," said Warkentin. It was a tight pack and as we went around the last turn buoy, everyone was climbing on top of one another. I was a bit behind the group ahead of me, but after the last turn, I somehow managed to catch up. Once I caught the next group, I took a couple of deep breaths. I needed to exhale and relax my chest muscles. But, I was still behind the group ahead of me and I didn't think I could shoot the gap. But, then they opened up and I had just enough room to sneak in. Once I got to the guy's feet ahead of me, I focused on his ankles. Then, I focused on his hips. A split second later, I felt a wave (and caught him). It was incredible. It was like I was swimming downstream. The touch pads came up so fast on me."
Warkentin finished in seventh, ensuring a guaranteed spot in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim finals on August 21st in Beijing. Chip Peterson, the 2005 world 10K champion, finished 13th and will not be going to Beijing. Due to the FINA qualification rules, Luis Escobar of Mexico, who finished 14th 51 seconds behind Peterson, will represent the Americas continent.
As 14 spots were awarded to the athletes in Seville, the battle for gold was a typically classic open water race.
Just before the last buoy, Dyatchin pulled ahead of Davies who had led the group for over an hour and 45 minutes at that point. Coming down the stretch, the men swam stroke-for-stroke. Within 25 meters of the finish, Dyatchin and Davies were smashing into each other on nearly every stroke. Davies swam at a close angle and Dyatchin caught Davies with an elbow on Davies' chin. Davies flinched upwards in pain and looked up at the touch pads, just enough for Dyatchin to get a quarter stroke ahead of Davies and out-touched him for a close victory.
"I really didn't know who was around me. I was just swimming the best way I know how. I don't like people on my shoulders and went to the front," said Davies. "(Dyatchin) is the best swimmer on the (pro open water) circuit and he knows what he is doing. I need to learn how to around the buoys and I don't know what lines to take out of the buoys."
So now a majority of the men's field is set for Beijing. Very importantly, the field will be smaller which has important implications for the tactics and pacing of the Olympic 10K.
"I am not rested or tapered, but I will be fully tapered and shaved for Beijing," recalled Davies, the 2004 1500 bronze medalist. "I'm the first one to admit that I made mistakes (here) which is very encouraging for Beijing."
Davies is a bridge between world class pool and open water swimming, not only in his outlook, but also in his training. "It's nice to do both (the 1500 and 10K). It's a nice mixture. I am fit enough to do both and I'll train for both. I'll do a bit more (open water) racing and gain (more) experience in the 10K before Beijing. A year ago, I wasn't even thinking about doing the 10K. But this swim was very encouraging."
Vladimir Dyatchin (Russia): 1 hour 53 minutes 21.0 seconds – qualified for Beijing
David Davies (Great Britain): 1:53:21.3 (0.3 seconds behind winner) – qualified for Beijing
Thomas Lurz (Germany): 1:53:27.2 (6.2 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Maarten van der Weijden (Netherlands): 1:53:36.2 (15.3 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Evgeny Drattsev (Russia): 1:53:37.6 (16.6 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Ky Hurst (Australia): 1:53:37.6 (16.6 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Mark Warkentin (USA): 1:53:37.8 (16.8 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Valerio Cleri (Italy): 1:53:38.8 (17.8 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Gianniotis Spyridon (Greece): 1:53:39.1 (18.1 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Brian Ryckeman (Belgium): 1:53:39.4 (18.4 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing
Gilles Rondy (France): 1:53:39.4 (18.4 seconds behind) – qualified for Beijing as European continental representative
Diego Nogueira (Spain): 1:53:41.1 (20.1 seconds behind)
Chip Peterson (USA): 1:53:41.6 (20.6 seconds behind)
Luis Escobar (Mexico): 1:54.32.0 (1:11.0 behind) – qualified for Beijing as Americas continental representative
Ivan Lopez (Mexico): 1:54.32.2 (1:11.2 behind)
Damian Blaum (Argentina): 1:54.34.3 (1:13.3 behind)
Jakub Fichtl (Czech Republic): 1:54.35.1 (1:14.1 behind)
Petar Stoychev (Bulgaria): 1:54:35.7 (1:14.7 behind)
Mohamed El-Zanaty (Egypt): 1:54:36.4 (1:15.4 behind) – qualified for Beijing as African continental representative.
Christian Hein (Germany): 1:54:36.9 (1:15.9 behind)
Alan Bircher (Great Britain): 1:54.44.2 (1:23.2 behind)
Rostislav Vitek (Czech Republic): 1:54:44.7 (1:23.7 behind)
Saleh Mohammed (Syria): 1:54:45.5 (1:24.5 behind) – qualified for Beijing as Asian continental representative
Erwin Maldonado (Venezuela): 1:54:45.8 (1:24.8 behind)
Rolando Salas (Venezuela): 1:54:46.0 (1:25.0 behind)
Michael Dmitriev (Israel): 1:54:48.4 (1:27.4 behind)
Mazen Aziz (Egypt): 1:54:57.4 (1:36.4 behind)
Philippe Dubreuil (Canada): 1:54:59.4 (1:38.4 behind)
Csaba Gercsak (Hungary): 1:54:59.7 (1:38.7 behind)
Jarrod Ballem (Canada): 1:55:04.4 (1:43.4 behind)
Igor Chervynskiy (Ukraine): 1:55:13.4 (1:52.4 behind)
Li Jun Zu (China): 1:55:22.4 (2:01.4 behind)
Simone Ercoli (Italy): 1:55:37.3 (2:16.3 behind)
Bertrand Venturi (France): 1:56:37.6 (3:16.6 behind)
Chad Ho (South Africa): 1:56:50.1 (3:29.1 behind)
Allan Do Carmo (Brazil): 1:56:53.2 (3:32.2 behind)
Alex Schelvis (Netherlands): 1:57:08.8 (3:47.8 behind)
Igor Snitko (Ukraine): 1:57.42.8 (4:21.8 behind)
Roberto Andre Penailillo (Chile): 1:58:16.9 (4:55.9 behind)
Yinhan Li (China): 1:58:30.6 (5:09.6 behind)
Daniel Katzir (Israel): 1:59:04.5 (5:43.5 behind)
Dzmitry Koptur (Belarus): 1:59.10.7 (5:49.7 behind)
Martin Andres Clement (Argentina): 1:59:15.2 (5:54.2 behind)
Marcelo Romanelli Soares (Brazil): 1:59:45.1 (6:24.1 behind)
Aljaz Ojstersek (Slovakia): 2:04:38.1 (11:17.1 behind)
Evgenij Pop Acev (Macedonia): 2:08:01.7 (14:40.7 behind)
Tihomir Ivanchev (Bulgaria): 2:09:49.1 (16:28.1 behind)
Tin Tu Ling (Hong Kong): 2:10:22.2 (17:01.2 behind)
Tomislav Soldo (Croatia) – DNF
Fouad Shkh Bakri (Syria) – DNF
Daniel Viegas (Portugal) – DNF
Christian Bayo (Puerto Rico) – DNF
Grant Hackett (Australia) – DSQ
Jose Francisco Hervas (Spain) – DSQ
Sung Mo Cho (Korean) – DNS
* DNF = did not finish
DSQ = disqualified
DNS = did not start
With so much on the line and so many men swimming aggressively, there were two disqualifications in the 10K race at the 2008 World Open Water Championships.
Jose Francisco Hervas of Spain was red-carded when he clearly pulled back another swimmer within 10 meters of the finish. According to FINA Open Water Swimming Rule 6.3.2, Hervas committed an infraction that was deemed "unsporting" in the opinion of the Referee. With four referees on the course in escort boats positioned on either side of the swimmers, the infraction was not appealed and accepted by the Spanish team.
Fortunately, the infraction did not impact the Olympic selection of the athletes because several Europeans finished ahead of Hervas with the European continental representative selection going to a French swimmer.
However, it was the disqualification of Olympic double gold medalist in the 1500 that drew grasps from the crowd when it was announced. Hackett was disqualified because he committed two separate infractions of the FINA open water swimming rules.
One hour and 24 minutes into the race when there were still 45 men swimming over one another in the lead pack, Hackett was given a yellow card for impeding the progress of another swimmer during the third loop. Officially, he committed an infraction of FINA Rule 6.3.1 for interfering with another swimmer. After the infraction, a card bearing Hackett's number of 35 was written by the Head Referee on a white paper and shown to the swimmers as an indication of a rule violation.
The second infraction was committed with less than 250 meters from the finish in the mad dash to the finish.
When the pace picked up with less than 1000 meters to go, Hackett was caught in the middle of the surging pack. With every stroke, unintentional collisions were made due to the close proximity of the swimmers to each other. As Hackett tried to create more space between himself and the swimmer alongside him, he apparently slowed down and tried deliberately to go over the back of Chip Peterson's legs. Apparently, the degree of separation between Hackett and Peterson was not enough. Unfortunately for both swimmers, Hackett swam over Peterson in a manner that three referees believed impeded the progress of Peterson.
With the second violation, a red flag was raised and Hackett's goal for competing in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim was over.
"It is unfortunate that any swimmer is disqualified, but in my opinion, the Referee gave the correct decision," explained Sid Cassidy, the chairman of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee. "The call was confirmed by both Assistant Referees who were also in very close proximity to the infraction. All the referees are experienced international referees."
The disqualification was protested by the Australian team, but the protest was rejected and the official results were issued.
Fortunately, the disqualification did not directly affect the athletes who earned the available spots in Beijing. Ky Hurst who tied for fifth was ahead of both Hackett and Peterson at the time of the infraction and it was clear that Hurst was going to finish in the top ten. With Hurst's top ten finish, Hackett had to finish in the top ten to earn a 10K spot in Beijing. Hackett also cannot enter the second qualifying race in Beijing on June 1 for the same reason (i.e., Hurst getting into the top 10 in Seville). It was estimated that Hackett was in 15th position at the time.
Peterson, who had similarly been knocked around by other competitors throughout the race, ultimately finished in 12th, only 2.2 seconds from a coveted Olympic selection.
Being the gentlemen that he is, Hackett told the Sydney Morning Herald that "I just did not have it in the legs in the end and the decision not to compromise my pool program was a risk you take and in the end I was only two body lengths off the top ten. That is how close it is. But I am going to hold my head up and move on and get back and prepare for the pool program."