By Phillip Whitten
DUBAI, U.A.E., November 29. IT was an all-German show on the second day of competition at the 3rd FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships, held in Dubai (UAE).
Ten kilometers was the distance of the day, and when all was said and done, Germany's Thomas Lurz and Britta Kamrau emerged victorious. The two races, however, were as different as an open water swim can be.
The Women's Race
The women's race was close all the way, with the lead pack of swimmers remaining compact virtually the entire 6.2-mile distance. Indeed, with only 2,000 meters left, 20 of the 24 starters remained in contention for a medal.
As the pace picked up, that pack began to break up. But with only a few hundred meters to go, ten women were battling for FINA hardware. Then, one by one, the pace took its toll until, with only 1100 meters left to go, four women were splashing stroke-for-stroke for the finish: Germany's Britta Kamrau, who finished second in the FINA Marathon Swimming World Cup; the Czech Republic's Jana Pechanova; Aussie Lauren Arndt; and Russia's Ekaterina Seliverstova.
Kamrau, who had finished a disappointing fourth in the 5km. race on Saturday, proved she had the most left, pulling away from her challengers, one centimeter at a time, to win in 2 hours 7 minutes 51.7 seconds. It was Kamrau's second world title in this event at a World Championship: she won the same event two years ago.
“It was a hard fight throughout the race," a smiling Kamrau said afterwards. "Even though my 5km. was not so good, I never lost hope for the 10 and 25 km. I can guarantee that I will be fighting for the victory in the 25 km as well,” she assured reporters.
"I train for the longer distances, so I am prepared to race three events in six days," she added.
The top 12 finishers were separated by only 10 seconds, with Pechanova taking the silver in 2:07:52.8, only 1.1 seconds behind Kamrau. Arndt grabbed the silver in 2:07:53.5, just four-tenths ahead of Seliverstova.
For the second straight race, Holland's Edith van Dijk was sixth. The US pair of Erica Rose and Briley Bergen placed 16th and 20th, respectively.
The Men's Race
In his quest for Britain's firsts-ever gold medal at a FINA Open Water World Championship, Alan Bircher adopted a risky strategy: take the race out fast and bust it wide open early on. Occasionally, that strategy works. It almost worked this time.
Swimming vitually alone, Bircher blasted his way to the front of the 26-man field and steadily lengthened his lead, stretching it, at one point, to 56 seconds over the following pack.
As he made the turn at the final buoy, only 750 meters from the finish, the intrepid Brit appeared to have the race well in hand. But there's a reason why open water swimmers, like cyclists, tend to race much of the way in a long race in a pack. It's called drafting.
Drafting saves energy, and that's just what Bircher began losing as he tried despertely to hang on over the final few hundred meters. But stroke-by-stroke, the pursuing pack was reeling him in.
With 300 meters to go, Germany's Thomas Lurz, who, like Kamrau was fourth in the 5km. race, sprinted past the exhausted Brit, powering to the finish in one hour 54 minutes 38 sceonds. Bircher followed about seven seconds later (1:54:44.8).
In a three-way battle for bronze, Russian Danill Serebrennikov (1:55:02.8) just edged out his countryman, Yevgueni Kochkarov (1:55:03.2) and Germany's Christian Hein (1:55:04.7).
A beaming Lurz commented: "Alan started very fast, but I tried not to follow his pace. I knew that if I could save some energy for the last 2.5 km, things would become easier.
"That was exactly what happened! I got better and better in each of the four laps (of 2.5 km), while Bircher lowered his rhythm.
"I also swim the 1500m in the pool, so it’s not so hard for me to control the different stages of a race."
Commenting about his finish, Lurz said: "After the last buoy I was in the pack, but I felt that I could catch Alan. I simply swam fast and crossed the line in first."
A disappointed Bircher found some solace in his second-place finish: I led the race for 9950m! Not bad… As I gave all I had I am not so sad. It is the first medal in a World Championship for Great Britain.
"I started very fast, but in the final meters I understood that I had lost. I just looked behind myself to make sure I wouldn't lose the silver… The explanation? Maybe I was too fast between the five and the 7.5 km."
The U.S. duo of John Kenny and Robert Langsett placed 17th and 24th, respectively.
The women's 25km. race will be contested on December 1, the men's on December 2.
FINA WORLD OPEN WATER SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
November 26 – December 2, 2004
1. Britta Kamrau (GER) 2:07:51.7
2. Jana Pechanova (CZE) 2:07:52.8
3. Lauren Arndt (AUS) 2:07:53.5
4. Ekaterina Seliverstova (RUS) 2:07:53.9
5. Eva Crestacci (ITA) 2:07:57.2
6. Edith van Dijk (NED) 2:08:00.5
7. Floriane Richard (FRA) 2:08:00.9
8. Etta van der Weijden (NED) 2:08:02.4
9. Ekaterina Zhdanova (RUS) 2:08:02.7
10. Catherine Ware (AUS) 2:08:03.9
11. Denise Schrader (SUI) 2:08:10.2
12. Tanya Hunks (CAN) 2:08:12.6
13. Lucrezia Terradura (ITA) 2:08:16.1
14. Stefanie Biller (GER) 2:08:29.7
15. Ivanka Moralieva (BUL) 2:08:32.9
16. Erica Rose (USA) 2:08:37.5
17. Karley Stutzel (CAN) 2:08:45.6
18. Yvetta Hlavackova (CZE) 2:09:08.5
19. Geijo Pilar (ARG) 2:09:53.4
20. Briley Bergen (USA) 2:10:33.2
21. Pamela Engel (BRA) 2:14:20.3
22. Malwina Bukszowana (POL) 2:19:00.0
23. Paloma Lopez Carrillo (MEX) 2:19:47.3
24. Bruna Cavalcante (BRA) 2:23:51.2
1. Thomas Lurz (GER) 1:54:38.0
2. Alan Bircher (GBR) 1:54:44.8
3. Danill Serebrennikov (RUS) 1:55:02.8
4. Evgueni Kochkarov (RUS) 1:55:03.2
5. Christian Hein (GER) 1:55:04.7
6. Damian Blaum (ARG) 1:55:07.9
7. Maarten van der Weijden (NED) 1:55:11.3
8. Nagy-Pal Levente (HUN) 1:55:11.7
9. Jarrod Ballem (CAN) 1:55:12.4
10. Carlos Pavao (BRA) 1:55:13.6
11. Josh Santacaterina (AUS) 1:55:14.8
12. Grant Cleland (AUS) 1:55:16.8
13. Jakub Fichtl (CZE) 1:55:42.6
14. Parua Massimiliano (ITA) 1:55:56.6
15. Petar Stoychev (BUL) 1:56:06.3
16. Simone Ercoli (ITA) 1:56:08.2
17. John Kenny (USA) 1:56:33.4
18. David Creel (CAN) 1:57:16.5
19. Emmanuel Poissier (FRA) 1:57:21.5
20. Guilherme Bier (BRA) 1:57:46.3
21. Bertrand Venturi (FRA) 1:57:47.5
22. Ivan Lopez Ramos (MEX) 1:59:23.6
23. David Proud (GBR) 2:01:13.3
24. Robert Langsett (USA) 2:05:02.9
25. Shaun Dias (RSA) 2:05:03.4
Khalifa Gomma (UAE) did not finish
Team Result of the 10 km
(based on the two best men’s and the best women’s times):
1. GER (Thomas Lurz, Christian Hein, Britta Kamrau) 5:57:34.4
2. RUS (Danill Serebrennikov, Evgueni Kochkarov, Ekaterina Seliverstova)
3. AUS (Josh Santacaterina, Grant Cleland, Lauren Arndt) 5:58:25.1
4. ITA (Parua Massimiliano, Simone Ercoli, Eva Crestacci) 6:00:02.0
5. CAN (Jarrod Ballem, David Creel, Tanya Hunks) 6:00:41.5
6. FRA (Emmanuel Poissier, Bertrand Venturi, Floriane Richard) 6:03:09.9
7. BRA (Carlos Pavao, Guilherme Bier, Pamela Engel) 6:07:20.2
8. USA (John Kenny, Robert Langsett, Erica Rose) 6:10:13.8
9. NED (Maarten van der Weijden, Edith van Dijk, Etta van der Weijden)
10. CZE (Jakub Fichtl, Jana Pechanova, Yvetta Hlavackova)