Thomas Lurz
Courtesy of: Greg Eggert
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By Steven Munatones, Swimming World correspondent, Open Water Source

BARCELONA, Spain, July 25. THOMAS Lurz has a tremendous schedule at the 2013 FINA World Championships - by far the longest and most difficult of any athlete at the championships. And he is making the most of his opportunities. With a silver in the 5 km and a bronze in the 10 km two days later, the German phenom scored a trifecta with a gold-medal performance together with Isabelle Harle and Christian Reichert in the 5 km team event this morning.


The 33-year-old veteran proved his quiet form of leadership and teamwork with a winning 52:54.9 time with Lurz and Harle. Unlike a complete dependence on his decades of hard work, pushing himself daily, Lurz raced in remarkable synchronization with his teammates. And the team effort was extended to his fellow pool teammates, too. "We had a good race today and our pool swimmers were here to support," said Lurz to Greg Eggert of FINA. "I am happy that they were here to see us win. We knew that we were swimming fast, our coaches were signaling to us from outside that we were on a fast pace."

The Germans had a good position to start. By beginning one minute behind several other teams, police officer Reichert was able to sight off the buoys and the other teams. "I was in the leading position and I was looking for the right way. When I was watching the swimmers ahead of us in the first lap I knew that they were swimming very fast.."

The two men were in total synchronization and in agreement. "It really was a perfect race," commented Lurz. Despite his hard schedule, he had his teammates to help him through this race. "Since I have 10 to 15 years of hard, hard training as my base, I am able to race a total 20 km over just five days. This 5 km was hard today, but since there were three of us I think of it as only 1.7 km each, and that made it easier."

The value of teamwork - and teammates - was also reiterated by Harle who hung tough throughout the race in which the Germans absolutely dominated with a victory over 1 minute, "For me the only job I had to do was to follow Thomas and Christian. It was really nice to see our entire team on the course here to support us."

The speed in which Harle swam in this effort - 52:54 - was in stark comparison to her fifth-place finish in the individual 5 km race - 56:46. In other words, she was nearly 4 minutes faster over the exact same course swimming with her German colleagues.

Silver was captured by the Greeks, led by Spyridon Gianniotis in 54:03.3, who just barely nipped the Brazilians by two tenths of a second. Australia was fourth, Italy finished fifth followed by the Americans. The fast pace and higher expectations of the athletes was not surprising to everyone in Barcelona who has become accustomed to the higher level of swimming performed. The sport is very quickly developing and rising to higher levels of performance. Gianniotis hinted at this elevation of expectations and performance, "We realized that this event was going to be quite fast and we knew that we had to be a bit faster and a bit lucky as a team today."

But the sense of team was profound for a sport typically focused entirely on the individual. Araousou said, "This medal means a lot to me. I finished in fourth place in both of the 5km and 10km events here so I want to thank my teammates for this medal." Her teammate Fokaidis summed up the Greek silver medal performance, "We swam fast from the beginning and we had a good chemistry."

Like her German rival Harle, Araousou similarly zipped around the 5 km team pursuit race in a speed unheard of in the individual race. On Saturday, she swam a 56:45.3, just barely missing out on a bronze medal. But with her male teammates, she swam a 54:03.3, an improvement of 2 minutes 42 seconds.

Allan Do Carmo of Brazil reiterated the importance of team among all the athletes, "I felt very well pulling the group all the time. Our strategy was that Samuel [De Bona] and I would set the pace for Poliana [Okimoto] and she would swim strong and stay with us. This medal was important because we are fighting for the first place in the open water competition. I am very happy because we train a lot to compete very well here in Barcelona and our team worked so hard. The Brazilian team is having a wonderful time in this Championships and I'm very happy because I'm part of it."

Okimoto expressed her gratitude in the press conference, "The boys deserved this medal, especially because Allan has experienced ups and downs and he has struggled in the past. I feel fulfilled to be participating in this moment with them. This is a difficult event because we do not know how others are and so we have to swim very strong from the beginning."

And, like all the others in this unique mixed-gender race, the swimmers gained emotional support from each other. "It was very nice taking part in this swim with Allan and Poliana," said De Bona. "I became a little tired at the end. I looked at Poliana and felt encouraged by her presence in the race. It was very exciting and really an unforgettable moment."

The official results:

1. Germany 52:54.9
2. Greece 54:03.3
3. Brazil 54:03.5
4. Australia 54:16.1
5. Italy 54:34.0
6. United States 54:44.7
7. France 55:26.3
8. Russia 56:08.7
9. Hungary 56:09.4
10. New Zealand 56:12.0
11. South Africa 56:34.7
12. Canada 57:13.7
13. Japan 58:00.0
14. China 58:02.6
15. Argentina 58:12.0
16. Mexico 58:17.7
17. Venezuela 58:59.9
18. Tunisia 59:19.4
19. Kazakhstan 1:00:15.8
20. Ecuador 1:00:32.6
21. Egypt 1:01:02.2
22. Hong Kong 1:05:26.9

And the story will continue. Thomas Lurz has another 25 km to race on Saturday. Stay tuned.



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