DUBAI, U.A.E., December 1. WHEN Gary Hall, Jr., took the Olympic 50 meter freestyle in Athens last summer, he won in a photo finish by a mere one-hundredth of a second.
Now imagine swimming 25,000 meters — that's 500 times the distance Gary and his competitors swam — and, at the end, it all comes down, once again, to the touch.
That's what happened today in Dubai in the final women's event of the 3rd FINA Open Water World Championships. For 24,900 meters, three women swam virtually stroke-for-stroke: Germany's Britta Kamrau, who won by a touch in the 10km. race just yesterday; Holland's legendary Edith Van Dijk who, until today, was having a disappointing championship; and Russia's unheralded Natalia Pankina. A second pack of three hung with the leaders for 20km, then dropped only a few seconds behind, waiting for one of the Big 3to falter so they could strike.
In the final several hundred meters Pankina gradually drifted behind Kamrau and Van Dijk, who aappeared to be attached at the hip.
At the end, both women lunged for the finish, with Kamrau nipping her Dutch rival by just one-tenth of a second. After nearly six hours of swimming, the differece between the two fastest women was a mere tenth of a second: 5:43:09.6 to 5:43:09.7. Pankina took the bronze in 5:43:14.4.
Erica Rose and Briley Bergen took 11th and 12th, respectively, for the USA.
All 18 swimmers completed the gruellig 15.6-milee swim.
3rd FINA WORLD OPEN WATER SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
December 1, 2004
1. Britta Kamrau (GER) 5:43:09.6
2. Edith van Dijk (NED) 5:43:09.7
3. Natalia Pankina (RUS) 5:43:14.4
4. Stefanie Biller (GER) 5:43:37.3
5. Olesya Shalygina (RUS) 5:43:41.3
6. Laura La Piana (ITA) 5:43:43.4
7. Yvetta Hlavackova (CZE) 5:45:12.9
8. Floriane Richard (FRA) 5:49:05.0
9. Karley Stutzel (CAN) 5:49:13.0
10. Alessandra Romiti (ITA) 5:49:59.2
11. Erica Rose (USA) 5:53:05.4
12. Briley Bergen (USA) 5:54:41.2
13. Nika Kozamernik (SLO) 5:56:15.1
14. Ivanka Moralieva (BUL) 5:56:46.0
15. Melissa Benson (AUS) 6:00:02.9
16. Lauren Guy (AUS) 6:11:04.7
17. Cindy Persoons (BEL) 6:11:29.6
18. Esther Nunez Morera (ESP) 6:25:23.1