Kristof Rasovszky, 22, of Hungary, and Rachele Bruni, 28, of Italy, won gold in the men’s and women’s open water 10km races in Lac St-Jean on Sunday, despite flying halfway around the globe from the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, to arrive here by the start of the race on July 21.

That was not surprising.

But for those who finished second and third in each race, Lac St-Jean marked a breakthrough.

On the men’s side, Fares Zitouni, a 20-year-old who trains in Rouen, France, claimed his first World Series podium by finishing second to Rasovszky by 12.5 seconds. Dario Verani of Italy took third place in his Lac St-Jean debut after passing two swimmers in the final 500 meters.

In the women’s race, Anna Olasz, 25, of Hungary, posted her best Lac St-Jean result, second place,  despite competing in the 25km event two days earlier at worlds in Korea and arriving in Canada at 3:00 this morning. Caroline Jouisse, 25, of France, took third and made the podium for the first time in her first full year competing in the FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series.

Zitouni and Verani finish 2-3 behind Rasovszky

Men’s 10km

The men’s race was faster than the 2018 edition by nearly three minutes, but the pack didn’t really string out until the backstretch of the penultimate fifth lap.

Entering the sixth and final loop, Rasovszky made his decisive move by skipping the final feed station, accelerating visibly, and leading a six-man breakaway.

He seemed “to gain about two meters on each buoy,” said Zitouni.

Then, in the last about 700 or 800 meters, the race grew even more interesting when the men caught and passed the women’s race, which had begun about 15 minutes after the men’s start.

Rasovszky knew the men would overtake the women because he could see the women’s lead boat.

“I tried to make some space,” he said.

But he didn’t expect Kenna Smallegange of Canada to separate herself from the women’s race and try to draft in his wake, hoping to gain enough speed to shoot past some of her own competitors. For a moment, Rasovszky said he worried that another man was on his heels “but then I saw it was a girl so it was okay. I didn’t have to push it.”   (Smallegange was quickly dropped.)

When Rasovszky touched the finish pad in 1 hour, 53 minutes, 28.8 seconds, it marked his second consecutive victory on the 2019 FINA/CNSG World Series tour, following his triumph in Hungary in June.

Runner-up Zitouni and third-place Verani were pleased with their results and both said they had stuck to their pre-race strategies, except Verani made one mistake.

When Rasovszky broke away on the final lap, Verani said, “I needed to be behind Kristof, not behind Zatouni. For this reason, I finished third and not second.”

Verani said he couldn’t catch Rasovszky because there was too much traffic in the breakaway pack, but he did pass four other swimmers, including two of them in the final 500 meters: Italy’s Matteo Furlan and Marcel Schouten of the Netherlands who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, separated by .01 seconds.

Schouten, the 2018 Lac St-Jean winner, was a bit surprised by the performances of the two men flanking Rasovszky on the podium.

“I didn’t know [Zitouni] could get pace like this,” he said. “And Dario as well because usually he can’t follow [Rasovszky]. But he did. It was crazy.”

Rachele Bruni finds the fastest line

Women’s 10km

The women’s event also came down to the final meters.

“I knew it would be a weird race because Anna [Olasz] and Rachele [Bruni] just came from the world championships and were probably tired from travel, so the race would probably be slow from the beginning,” said third-place finisher Caroline Jouisse.

“I tried to make a move in the third lap,” Jouissse said, “but knew I couldn’t make it work; I didn’t have enough speed to do more. So I did a backstroke and let it go.

“I checked with Rachele when the men were about to catch us. Beginning the fifth lap, men’s boat wasn’t far. I tried to stay in front.”

In the home stretch, however, Bruni couldn’t be touched.

“This year, I went easy four laps and the last two a little faster,” Bruni said after winning in 2 hours 3 minutes, 56.4 seconds. “I wanted to stay with the group and not escape until 500 meters from the end. But I passed with 600 meters.”

Anna Olasz finished less than four seconds behind Bruni.

All three women will meet again on August 3 at Lac Megantic, Quebec, the next 10km stop on the FINA/CNSG Marathon Swimming World Series.

But check this out: to get there, the Hungarians, Olasz and Rasovszky, are flying all the way back to South Korea tomorrow then home to Hungary before returning to Canada in 14 days.

“It will take 40 hours or more,” Olasz said of the upciming journey, “and I spent 24 hours here in Canada.”

Nonetheless, the silver medalist said, “arriving on race day is nice because jet lag hasn’t hit me yet.”

FINA/CNSG 10km Marathon Swimming World Series #5, Lac St-Jean (CAN)

Men
1. Kristof Rasovszky (HUN) 1:53:28.80
2. Fares Zitouni (FRA) 1:53:41.30
3. Dario Verani (ITA) 1:53:44.59
4. Matteo Furlan (ITA) 1:53:47.00
5. Marcel Schouten (NED) 1:53:47.01

L-R: Zitouni, Rasovszky, Verani

Women
1.     Rachele Bruni (ITA) 2:03:56.4
2.     Anna Olasz (HUN) 2:04:00.3
3.     Caroline Jouisse (FRA) 2:04:03.2
4.     Stephanie Horner (CAN) 2:04:08.8
5.     Kenna Smallegange (CAN) 2:05:47.4