Colin Hill, FINA Press Correspondent

With the FINA World Championship Gwangju 2019 quickly approaching (July 12 – 28, 2019), there was lower entry numbers than usual, but still a high quality field making this a very competitive swim with 24 men and 22 women’s competing.

The women’s race had the two Italians Bridi & Bruni and Brazils Cunha being the ones to beat. The men’s race was more wide open with the more experienced swimmer Washchburger of Germany and the Brazilian Ponte hoping to add to the overall ranking with Ponte currently in the top 10.

Before the start of the race a tribute was paid by all the elite swimmers, coaches and officials to the late Dennis Miller, former Technical Open Water Swimming Member & FINA Bureau. Hailing from Fiji Dennis was passionate about the oceans and open water swimming, so it was fitting that this race fell upon World Oceans Days.

The men’s race started at 16:00 and from a dive start with almost all the swimmers opting for wetsuits. Japan soon had two swimmers in the front, but all eyes were on the experienced Waschburger (GER) as he slotted in behind them. Schouten (NED) decided to start at the back of the pack and out of trouble for the first lap before working his way forward.

It was soon apparent that the currents were working in the swimmers favour with fast times being published for each 2km lap. The long section next to beach which could have been a strong current against them was in fact hardly against them at all. However, when the swimmers rounded the end of the course and further out into the main body of water for the long straight back to the start/feed pontoon the current was pushing the swimmers along at a fast pace. Each two kilometre lap was only taking between 18 – 19 minutes.

By lap three the main pack has been ripped apart as Waschburger (GER) sensed that this could be his race and some of the less experienced elites were unable to hang on. Argentina’s three swimmers seemed to be working together nicely to keep contact with the main pack.

Lap four and there were 11 in the lead pack with Waschburger (GER) pushing hard, all the swimmers missed the final feed station going into the last lap at which point the pack was down to 6. As the swimmers hit the final 100m it was Waschburger (GER) out in front, but by the 50m mark and the finish funnel Miyamoto from Japan put on a tremendous kick to surge past Waschburger (GER) to take his first win for Germany with Alejandro Moreno Munoz (ARG) just ahead of his teammate Bertola.

Women’s Race

Although a slightly smaller wave than the men’s event there were five top ranked swimmers who would all be competing hard for the win.
At the start of the first race it was Vilas (ESP) who took on the early pace, with the pack bunched behind her. The first lap was the slowest of the race. Jouisse, France’s only swimmer at the event went to the front and was in contention for most of the race. It was only in lap three where the main contenders came to the fore. Bridi (ITA), Bruni (ITA), Cunha (BRA) & Arevalo (ECU) along with Andre (POR) keep the large number of spectators enthralled.

The final lap was the fastest by some way as the pace seemed to keep increasing, the crowds roared as Bruni and Cunha came down to a sprint finish from almost 200m out, with neither swimmer cracking under the pressure. Although the swimmers had the same times (because of the way the transponder times are picked up on the line) a photo finish saw Cunha claim first place, making this her second top podium spot after Doha at the start of the season.

QUOTES

2nd place Waschburger (GER): “the race was different as to other World Series due to the number of swimmers being lower than normal, I thought that I could win the race, but Miyamoto from Japan was flying at the end.”

1st place Miyamoto (JPN): “The water temperature was low for me and it was a very hard race. This was the first time for me to win a World Series event and I’m very happy.”

1st Cunha (BRA): “This was the first time I felt that I raced well in a wetsuit. Today I tried to swim more in the front of the group, like I did in the Seychelles. I came here because I want to keep racing right up to the World Championships.”

2nd Bruni (ITA): “I’m very happy with the race, the race was harder than normal with the wetsuit. It was a very fast finish, it was a good clean finish as we didn’t clash at all when we were coming into the finish. I’m looking forward to the World Championships which are coming up in less than a month, the World Championships is also our qualification for the Olympic Games so I really want to win a medal at the Champs.”

FACT FILE

The course is 2km (5 laps = 10km)
Water conditions: Tidal, Salt water with currents (at the mouth of the river Sado)
Water Temp: 19 degrees C. (Wetsuit Optional Rule)
Course runs parallel along the shore line, with moored boats in the centre. The swimmers had the current with and against them during the course.