Hector Pardoe Wins Olympic Marathon Qualifier; Oussama Mellouli Reaches Sixth Games

Hector Pardoe podium
Photo Courtesy: FINA

Hector Pardoe won the men’s Olympic open water qualifier as he led home a British one-three in 2:02.07.5 in Setubal, Portugal.

Greece’s Athanasios Kynigakis won silver with Pardoe’s British team-mate Toby Robinson in third with both men clocking 2:02.13.0 although with one quota spot per nation, he will not make the trip to Japan.

Oussama Mellouli becomes the fourth swimmer to compete at six Olympics – joining Swedish pair Therese Alshammar – who is aiming for her seventh Games in Tokyo – and Lars Frolander and Derya Buyukuncu of Turkey.

It comes nine years after the Tunisian won the open water at London 2012 which followed bronze in the 1500 free as he became the first swimmer to win medals in both the pool and the open water at a single Games.

Hector Pardoe

Hector Pardoe: Photo Courtesy: FINA

From the offset both British athletes were up to speed with the pace of the race, staying in the chasing pack of the 63-strong field, as Takeshi Toyoda of Japan went solo up ahead for the opening four laps.

Come the 8km mark and Pardoe and Robinson sat third and fourth respectively, and it wasn’t long after that they overhauled Toyoda to take the lead.

Pardoe, who was eighth at the European Championships last month, went out in front with Robinson on his toes as a nail-biting head to head played out over the final kilometre – both men knowing that only one qualifying spot was available per nation.

However as the pair turned round the final buoy, Pardoe was still in possession of his body-length advantage and with a final sprint for home claimed a crucial victory toward his Tokyo ambitions.

Pardoe said through British Swimming:

“The feeling is indescribable. After taking such a big risk moving my life to France, not speaking the language and having to fend for myself in a foreign country – which was made even harder by the covid restrictions and not being able to see my family for six months at a time.

“Then of course the intensity of my training, averaging 85k every week for the last two years, it all has resulted in something that I’m so proud of!

“Obviously I’m ecstatic to get the qualification spot but also to get the win on top of that.

“I was thinking before the race that I was a contender for winning it, but the pressure and my mind were more focused on the qualification spot.

“I felt good in the water, the race was always going to be hard without any of the men who have already pre-qualified to help set the pace, this and the fact it was in a wetsuit meant I always knew it was going to come down to the sprint.”

Kynigakis told fina.org:

“I am very, very happy. It will be my first time at the Olympics. I am very excited!

“Yes it was a difficult race, I think it was a dangerous race because there were big waves and a lot of people.

“I want to go back to Greece, to Athens. I am excited and I am looking forward to being part of the Olympics. And maybe I will go to Athens and do some more trainings. We will see.”

Mellouli also posted to social media after making his sixth Games, 21 years after making his debut at Sydney 2000.

  1. HECTOR PARDOE  (GBR) – qualified
  2. ATHANASIOS KYNIGAKIS (GRE) – qualified
  3. TOBIAS ROBINSON (GBR) – not qualified
  4. MATAN RODITI (ISR) – qualified
  5. KAI GRAEME EDWARDS (AUS) – qualified
  6. TAISHUN MINAMIDE (JPN) – qualified
  7. TIAGO CAMPOS (POR) – qualified
  8. KIRILL ABROSIMOV (RUS) – qualified
  9. DAVID FARINANGO (ECU) – qualified
  10. OUSSAMA MELLOULI (TUN) – qualified
  11. MICHAEL McGLYNN (RSA)  – qualified
  12. DANIEL DELGADILLO (MEX) – qualified

CONTINENTAL QUALIFICATION

  • ELLIOT SODEMANN  (SWE) – EUROPE
  • HAU-LI FAN (CAN) – AMERICA
  • PHILLIP  SEIDLER (NAM) – AFRICA
  • WILLIAM YAN THORLEY (HKG) – ASIA

 


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