FINA World Open Water Championships: Little Bit of Everything, 5K Results, Recap

By Steven Munatones, Swimming World Special Correspondent

SEVILLE, Spain, May 6. IN many of the recent media articles about the 2008 World Open Water Championships in Seville, much has been made of the physical contact between the swimmers and the disqualification of Grant Hackett. However, there are several other stories that are creating a much greater stir within the open water swimming community:

* The emergence of Great Britain and Brazil as open water swimming powers. Both Great Britain and Brazil qualified two swimmers each for the women's Olympic 10K Marathon Swim final on August 20. While many experienced observers would have guessed countries like Russia and Germany would have qualified two swimmers each, it was Great Britain and Brazil who paved the way.

* The emerging trend of cross-over between pool and open water swimming. Cassandra Patten (800 free), Keri-Anne Payne of Great Britain (400 IM) and David Davies (1500 free), all three from Great Britain, not only qualified for pool events, but they also all comfortably qualified in the open water event. "I am going to continue training for both events (1500 and 10K)," said Davies. "I just need more experience racing (in the 10K)."
Motherhood is a wonderful thing. Both Angela Maurer of Germany and Edith van Dijk of the Netherlands, mothers of young children who both temporarily retired after their child's birth, qualified for the women's 10K event in Beijing. "Coming around the last turn buoy, I knew I had to hold off the other Europeans," said a happy van Dijk after the race. "There was a group of swimmers behind me (Teja Zupan of Slovakia, Alice Franco of Italy, Marianna Lymperta of Greece and Margarita Dominguez of Spain) and I knew I just had to finish in front of them by a touch to qualify for Beijing."

* Never quit. Despite getting her goggles knocked off twice and her swim cap once while swimming in the top five, Andreina Pinto of Venezuela qualified for Beijing as the top Americas continental finisher. Pinto stopped on three separate occasions during the 10K race to catch her goggles and swim cap in the whitewater as she rounded the turn buoys. "She was right there, but her goggles were knocked off at the turn," recalled her coach. "But, she grabbed her goggles right away and never stopped dreaming."

* Nothing is a given. Swimmers such a Britta Kamrau-Corestein of Germany and Petar Stoychev of Bulgaria, who were both swimming well over the last year and have been dominant on the pro marathon swimming circuit for years, did not perform to expectations and will not be going to Beijing.

* First Paralympian to qualify as an able-bodied athlete. Natalie du Toit of South Africa is a woman with a mission. "I have always dreamed of going to the Olympics even since I was a little girl," said du Toit who lost her left leg in a terrible car accident in 2003. "I am so happy I qualified for Beijing." Both NBC and ESPN are planning coverage of her incredible story of courage and commitment.

* Leukemia comeback. Similarly to du Toit, Maarten van der Weijden of the Netherlands was faced with an unexpected and terrible medical prognosis. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, Maarten had one of the most memorable swims of the 2008 World Open Water Championships and qualified for Beijing with a fourth-place finish.

* Incredible Physical Conditioning. With the inclusion in the Olympics, the pace that the top swimmers must hold to be competitive is becoming increasing faster. In Seville, both Patten and Davies set a tremendous pace that forced everyone else to follow. The pace is forcing coaches and athletes to re-examine what is possible, both in training and in competition. "We've put in some fairly heavy training," said Natalie du Toit's coach in an understatement.

Negative-Splitting to Beijing

"Maarten is incredible, isn't he?" said Shelley Taylor-Smith after the men's 10K race in Seville. Maarten van der Weijden earned a spot in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim by finishing a strong fourth in the strongest field ever assembled.

Maarten is incredible for two reasons: he found himself in the very back of the lead pack, between 40th and 45th place for the first 5K, and he has been fighting leukemia since he was first diagnosed in 2001.

Maarten is known as one of the most savvy and personable open water swimmers on the pro circuit where he literally stands above the crowd at 6'-7" (202 cm). He not only openly gives advice to those less experienced than he, but he is also a swimmer who has taken negative-splitting to an entirely different level.

During the most important race of his life, Maarten had the patience to sit back in the lead pack of 45 swimmers – somewhere between 25-40 meters behind the leader David Davies – for over an hour. While the rest of the pack – including most famously Grant Hackett – were getting pounded on and thrashing with each other, Maarten was swimming calmly and without physical contact in the back, simply bidding for time.

Similar to David Davies of Great Britain who shot out to the front and stayed there, Maarten's strategy was to avoid contact…thereby, saving physical and emotional energy. "This is the way I swim," said Maarten. "It is good for me. I also have time to take good feedings."

While other swimmers fight over positioning in and out of the first several feeding stations, Maarten has the time and luxury to take good, long feeds without the pressure faced by those ahead of him.

But when the race heads into the back half of the swim, Maarten becomes the stalker. As Maarten takes advantage of his years of experience on the pro circuit, he makes his move by picking off one competitor after another. Steadily and unrelentingly, he moves his way with the pack. By the last 2K, Maarten found himself right in the lead mix, but with significantly less pounding than his competitor.

In the critical last 1000 meters, Maarten not only put himself in position to earn an Olympic spot, but he was probably the fastest man during the critical last stretch. "Maarten is so tough in that last part of the race" is a statement made by most of Maarten's competitors at one time or another over the years.

In Seville, during the last 5K of the race, Maarten closed at least 30-40 meters on the best open water swimmers in the world and three pool swimmers (Grant Hackett, David Davies and Spyridon Giannoitis of Greece) who have 1500 times of faster than 15:03. "I am happy with my swim and now we go on to Beijing."

Given Maarten's medical background, it is not surprising he succeeds with such a patient strategy. In 2001, Maarten was diagnosed with leukemia and thought his promising career was over. Despite two years of fighting cancer, he made a comeback in 2003. Since 2004, he has made his trademark negative-split swims are force to be reckoned with on the pro circuit.

But, he has also made his mark in other ways. Maarten swam across 17-mile Lake Yssel in the Netherlands in 4 hours and 20 minutes in 2004 and donated 50,000 euros (US$77,455 at the current exchange rate) to cancer research.

While Maarten's goal is to win an Olympic medal, he is already a champion in the minds of those in the open water swimming community.

Russia Goes 1-2, USA Get a Bronze in the Women's 5K

In today's 5K race, Chloe Sutton earned the first medal for the USA at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships, earning a bronze after Russia's Larisa Ilchenko (1 hour 4 seconds) and Ekaterina Seliverstova (1 hour 7 seconds).

After finishing twelve in the same event at the 2007 World Swimming Championships, Sutton battled through the pack after a tough start where she was caught up in a large flotilla of swimmers.

"Chloe did great. Even though she got hemmed in on the first turn, she didn't panic," said Head Coach Bill Rose who also serves as her coach at Mission Viejo. "Her strategy was not to swim in a pack where she had swimmers on both sides. She was to find her way to the inside, where she could swim with the lane line on her left. After the first turn, she found herself in 3rd or 4th place. Then, she took the lead on the back half of the first (2.5K) loop and the two Russians hooked on to her. "It was like the rest of the way until the last turn when the Russians did their thing."

Larisa Ilchenko, the winner of the 10K race two days earlier, won her fifth consecutive 5K world title. Dubai in 2004. Montreal in 2005. Naples (Italy) in 2006. Melbourne in 2007. Ilchenko has taken on everyone and won in the same fashion: get into second place, draft and then overtake the leader at the end. This is a much easier strategy to explain than do.

"She is very happy and held her own against the world's best," continued Rose. "(Chloe) is thrilled. She had never been on a podium at a world championships and she is just 16 years old, the youngest competitor in a sport where experience truly counts for a lot."

Christine Jennings of Minnesota, the second American in the 5K race, finished 22nd in her first international open water race.

Traditional Powers Continue Dominance in Men's 5K

In the men's 5K race at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships, Germany's Thomas Lurz (54:57.3) got the best of Russia's Vladimir Dyatchin (54:58.8) while medical marvel Maarten van der Weijden of the Netherlands earned a bronze in 54:98.8.

In an exact same repeat of the 5K race at the 2007 World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Lurz had enough at the end to hold off fast-charging Dyatchin.

In another promising swim that bodes well for the future of the American open water team, Chad La Tourette of Mission Viejo placed fourth as he blasted around Christian Hein of Germany, Jose Francisco Hervas of Spain, Diego Noguiera of Spain, Evgeny Drattsev of Russia and Alex Schelvis of the Netherlands at the end of the race. There were less than four seconds separating 4th and 9th place in an exciting finish.

"Chad did a great job. He was wonderful," said Bill Rose, head coach of the US team. "By the first turn (buoy), he was in fourth or fifth, but he came out of the turn in third place. Then, he made his move (on the back half of the first loop) and was in second behind Dyatchin."

Dyatchin and La Tourette held their positions until the final loop when Dyatchin was overtaken by Lurz.

"Lurz, Dyatchin, Hein of Germany, and then the two Spaniards sandwiched Chad and he suddenly went from second to seventh," continued Rose. "But, he stopped, made a turn and went to the outside in order to not fight with his competitors. He passed four people in the last 30 yards and just touched out (a fast-charging) group. Once he got to the final buoy, he really turned on his kick."

"It was good," said La Tourette in his typical low-key way according to Rose.

Josef Kinderwater, a freshman at the University of North Carolina, finished 15th in his first international competition and second open water race ever. Kinderwater held his own in a tough 8-man pack filled with experienced Europeans and Australians.

5k Results
Rank No Name Country Time Time
1 19 LURZ Thomas GER 54:57.3
2 24 DYATCHIN Vladimir RUS 54:58.8 1.5
3 32 VAN DER WEIJDEN Maarten NED 54:59.8 2.5
4 70 LA TOURETTE Chad USA 55:04.5 7.2
5 50 HEIN Christian GER 55:04.6 7.3
6 15 HERVAS Jose Francisco ESP 55:05.4 8.1
7 28 NOGUEIRA Diego ESP 55:06.4 9.1
8 2 DRATTSEV Evgeny RUS 55:07.0 9.7
9 26 SCHELVIS Alex NED 55:07.4 10.1
10 22 BALLEM Jarrod CAN 55:11.4 14.1
11 65 BOLZONELLO Nicola ITA 55:17.5 20.2
12 57 SANTACATERINA Josh AUS 55:19.0 21.7
13 66 RIGHI Andrea ITA 55:20.2 22.9
14 53 FICHTL Jakub CZE 55:20.7 23.4
15 69 KINDERWATER Josef USA 55:21.0 23.7
16 56 BEATO Andrew AUS 55:24.4 27.1
17 63 BRANDA Loic FRA 55:25.8 28.5
18 59 LIMA Luiz Eduardo BRA 55:27.3 30.0
19 27 DUBREUIL Philippe CAN 55:32.1 34.8
20 64 FOGG Daniel GBR 55:36.3 39.0
21 31 GERCSAK Csaba HUN 55:50.3 53.0
22 68 UKRADYGA Konstyantyn UKR 58:00.7 3:03.4
23 44 OJSTERSEK Aljaz SLO 58:08.7 3:11.4
24 67 FAURE James RSA 58:20.1 3:22.8
25 25 VIEGAS Daniel POR 58:38.7 3:41.4
26 58 LIMA Fabio Alves BRA 58:41.8 3:44.5
27 71 HERNANDEZ Yvan VEN 58:46.2 3:48.9
28 51 CLEMENT Martin Andres ARG 58:48.8 3:51.5
29 62 POSMOURNY Jan CZE 58:50.2 3:52.9
30 72 SEGOVIA Johndry VEN 1:01:03.4 6:06.1
31 60 HU Di CHN 1:01:03.6 6:06.3
32 4 BAYO Christian PUR 1:01:21.6 6:24.3
61 XU Wenchao CHN DSQ
13 SPYRIDON Gianniotis GRE DNS
16 HO Chad RSA DNS
40 METWALY MEZ Mohamed ElZanaty EGY DNS

Rank No Name Country Time Time
1 19 ILCHENKO Larisa RUS 1:00:04.6
2 65 SELIVERSTOVA Ekaterina RUS 1:00:07.8 3.2
3 67 SUTTON Chloe USA 1:00:09.9 5.3
4 24 PECHANOVA Jana CZE 1:00:16.5 11.9
4 57 ZHENG Jing CHN 1:00:16.5 11.9
6 11 ZUPAN Teja SLO 1:00:18.1 13.5
7 50 KAMRAUCORESTEIN Britta GER 1:00:19.2 14.6
8 53 BROOKESPETERSON Kate AUS 1:00:19.7 15.1
9 49 DIETRICH Cathy FRA 1:00:20.6 16.0
10 59 LOPEZ Xenia ESP 1:00:20.6 16.0
11 56 LI Hong CHN 1:00:22.7 18.1
12 29 BERGLUND Eva SWE 1:00:26.1 21.5
13 38 OBERSON Swann SUI 1:00:26.4 21.8
14 61 BRUNI Rachele ITA 1:00:27.2 22.6
15 58 BENEYTO Carolina ESP 1:00:27.7 23.1
16 51 DU TOIT Natalie RSA 1:00:29.2 24.6
17 52 BAGLEY Alexandra AUS 1:00:29.4 24.8
18 17 VAN DIJK Edith NED 1:00:31.7 27.1
19 68 MALDONADO Patricia VEN 1:00:34.9 30.3
20 16 STUTZEL Karley CAN 1:00:49.5 44.9
21 69 WOOLLISCROFT Charlotte GBR 1:01:27.7 1:23.1
22 66 JENNINGS Christine USA 1:01:37.1 1:32.5
23 2 KOZAMERNIK Nika SLO 1:01:37.7 1:33.1
24 36 MAURER Angela GER 1:01:38.0 1:33.4
25 70 CONSIGLIO Giorgia ITA 1:01:38.1 1:33.5
26 54 CRUZ Maria Da Penha BRA 1:01:41.1 1:36.5
27 28 BALAZS Zsofia CAN 1:01:41.3 1:36.7
28 6 PINTO Yanel VEN 1:01:41.3 1:36.7
29 12 INACIO Daniela POR 1:01:41.4 1:36.8
30 62 WAAIJER Maaike NED 1:02:19.9 2:15.3
31 33 PATTEN Cassandra GBR 1:02:34.2 2:29.6
32 60 CADOUR Marilyn FRA 1:02:35.4 2:30.8
33 64 SMYTH Louise RSA 1:02:38.0 2:33.4
34 35 BOGARIN Antonella ARG 1:02:43.0 2:38.4
35 31 POP Darija MNE 1:06:02.3 5:57.7
36 63 BUKSZOWANA Malwina POL 1:06:04.5 5:59.9
37 55 ENGEL Pamela BRA 1:06:04.9 6:00.3
38 46 RIOS Militza PUR 1:13:16.5 13:11.9

Van der Weijden, Maarten

Christine Jennings

Ekaterina Seliverstova (left), Larisa Ilchenko (center), Chloe Sutton (right)