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Rio 2016 : Olympic swimming marathon gold for Dutch but silver medallist disqualified

by ZwemZa on August 15th, 2016
Sharon van Rouwendaal, right, with Rachele Bruni on the left after her promotion to second. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Sharon van Rouwendaal, right, with Rachele Bruni on the left after her promotion to second. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands has cruised to a dominating victory in women’s 10km open water swimming at Fort Copacabana.

She earned gold after a little under two hours in the water, reaching the finish 16.6 seconds clear of the field.

“The French swimmer has sunk me,” Bruni told Italian media after the race. “At the finish she obstructed me and I could not touch the board. I’m glad of the decision of the judges.”

The decision promoted Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto into bronze, securing the host nation their first swimming medal of the Games, and their first ever women’s Olympic medal in the discipline.

Xin Xin of China claimed fourth place.

Four years ago, Haley Anderson missed an Olympic gold medal in the 10-kilometer open water swim by 0.4 seconds, taking home silver instead.

In Rio, she missed it by 48.1 seconds, finishing in fifth place.

Battling ocean swells, Anderson swam into fifth at the halfway point. But on the third (of four) laps in the ocean waters off Rio’s Copacabana Beach, the 24-year-old swimmer was not in the right place when van Rouwendaal surged. She fell 16 seconds behind the leaders.

“I just didn’t set myself up like I wanted to going into the fourth lap,” she said. “I kind of expected that. Everybody is fighting for those top three spots. So you had to tough it out. But I just fell behind.”

By the finish, Anderson had dropped more time but passed swimmers ahead of her to finish fifth.

Great Britain’s Keri-anne Payne finished seventh after the disqualification. “I was kind of hoping for a bit of rain,” she said. “I was hoping for it to be cold, I was hoping for the worst. We planned for the worst, doing some cold-water swimming last year, but it was 21 degrees today.

“I did have a lot left,” Anderson said. “I was passing people a lot in that last lap, just was a little too far behind and didn’t make my move soon enough.”

“We practiced absolutely everything. If the course was different, if it was really wavy and windy, there may have been a completely different result. But these are the best girls in the world, we have the best swimmers in the world. To be seventh in the world at 28 years old, my third Olympics, this has just been an absolute dream. This last year has been incredible.”

South African Michelle Weber finished a tad off the pace, some 3 minutes behind the winner in a time of 1:59.05 to secure 18th place. This after being some 2 seconds off the pace going into the second lap. To the uninformed who are not familiar with the nuances of this, the toughest and roughest discipline of the aquatics family, Michelle’s effort was commendable and will surely spur her onto greater heights in the future in her effort to emulate her World Junior Open Water Swimming Championship gold a few years back.

Defending Olympic champion Eva Risztov of Hungary wasn’t a contender this time. She finished 13th, more than a minute behind the winner.

With music blaring, scantily clad beachcombers frolicked in the ocean waters on a sunny winter day, though officials on jet skis kept anyone from swimming out close to the course. In many ways, it was just another day at the beach for sun-worshipping Brazilians — with an Olympic event thrown into the mix.

The temperature was climbing toward the low 90s, but the heat wasn’t a problem. All 26 swimmers finished the race, a striking contrast from four years ago when two athletes, including Okimoto, had to be pulled from the water.

“London was a difficult experience for me,” the bronze medalist said. “I tried to keep those memories away.”

The start of the race didn’t comply with FINA rules, which require the swimmers to jump off a fixed platform. The Rio structure was destroyed by high waves last weekend, so the swimmers — in a scene that resembled the set of a war movie — waded off in the water, cheered on by hundreds of Brazilian fans.

About 250 yards off shore, they all bunched up together to get the signal to begin four laps around the bay. Fort Copacabana was at one end of the course, while Sugarloaf loomed over the far end of the 2.5-kilometer circuit. A Brazilian naval vessel lurked close by, ensuringthere were no security issues.

While the hotel-lined beach provided a glorious backdrop, the race was held in waters that an Associated Press study found could be dangerous to one’s health because of raw sewage dumped into the city’s waters. Brazilian officials had vowed to clean up the waters after winning South America’s first Olympics, but those promises were never carried out.

The quality of the water was a major embarrassment leading up to the games, also affecting venues for rowing, canoeing, sailing and triathlon.

Anderson took antibiotics and probiotics for extra protection, but said it seemed like any other ocean race.

“My tongue is like salty right now,” she said.

This was only the second Olympic competition held in open ocean waters. At the first Summer Games in 1896, before custom-built pools were the norm, swimming was held in the Bay of Zea.

The inaugural open water event in 2008 was staged at Beijing’s rowing and canoeing canal. Four years ago, the open water in London took place in the Serpentine lake at Hyde Park.

The men’s 10K race will be held Tuesday on the same course at Copacabana.

Top 10 Finishers
 1 23 NED
 2 26 ITA
BRUNI Rachele
 3 4 BRA
4 15 CHN
5 9 USA
6 21 GER
HAERLE Isabelle
7 7 GBR
PAYNE Keri-Anne
8 8 RUS
KRAPIVINA Anastasiia
9 17 ECU
AREVALO Samantha
10 24 BRA
CUNHA Ana Marcela
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