DOHA, March 18, 2018-Olympic champions Sharon Van Rouwendaal and Ferry Weertman, both of the Netherlands, were the big winners yesterday in Doha, the first host of the FINA/HOSA Marathon Swim World Series 2018.
Rio 2016 winner Van Rouwendaal touched home in 2h02m24s4, while Germany's Leonie Beck was second in 2h02m25m2 and teammate Finnia Wunram third in 2h02m26s7.
In the men's race Olympic title holder Weertman won his first ever gold medal in the World Series. He clocked a time of 1h52m41s6, while France's David Aubry took silver in 1h52m42s5 and Italy's Simone Ruffini, last year overall Series' winner, took bronze in 1h52m24s7.
Saturday's competitions were attended by Second Vice President of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) HE Dr. Thani bin Abdulrahman Al Kuwari, the QOC Secretary General HE Mr. Jassim Rashid Al Buenain and President of the Qatar Swimming Association Khaleel Al Jabir.
An array of open water swimmers (43 women, and 72 men), several of them Olympic and/or World champions battled for glory yesterday off Doha's Coriche.
The women's race started this morning at 8:30 with uncertain conditions. A light wind was up and a slight fog made the visibility more difficult. However half way through the race the sun came out and the temperature went up.
The speed really started to pick up towards the end of the race when the German swimmers Leonie Beck and Finnia Wunman clearly showed their intention to keep their best pace within the frontrunners.
While most swimmers skipped the last feed opportunity at the pontoon, where they can refuel with energy gel and cooling water, the real sprint was visible in the last 19-20 minutes of the race.
In the last straight line, Van Rouwendaal distanced herself from the pack to swim clear with the definitive intention to grab a medal. At the last buoy, Van Rouwendaal gave all she had and clinched the gold after 2h02m24s4 of incredible effort in the water. Right behind her for silver was Leonie Beck (2h02m25s2) and Finnia Wunman for bronze (2h02m26s7). A very happy and smiling Van Rouwendaal commented after her race: “I feel very good. This is like my best race ever… apart from the Olympics. I was really relaxed during the race. I started behind and at each turn I tried to win a few places and at the end I just kept calm. I tried to sprint the last 600m.
“Normally I am in front right from the start but at the World Series I am trying to learn new tactics. I can see that this was my best tactic ever." Leonie Beck (GER), silver medallist, added: “I am feeling very good. I did not expect to do so well. When the Italians stopped I didn't expect it so I thought “ok well I'll just go in front"."
As opposed to the women's diving start, it was a water start for the men's race this afternoon in Doha.
Right from the beginning Logan Fontaine, 19 in a few days, from France, took the lead together with teammate David Aubry, 21. We could observe a V-shape formation behind the two French leaders which is a sign that the pace is steady.
But half way through the first lap, seven swimmers were side by side in the front to form a spectacular group of frontrunners.
Just like in the women's race, Germany showed great form yesterday. Marcus Herwig started to take the lead and distance himself from the pack. He swam on the left hand side of this huge group of athletes, which included 15 French swimmers, all standing out with their bright blue cap.
At the start of lap 2, Hungary's Kristof Rasovszky went off and started leading, leaving Fontaine fighting behind him, who, half way through the second lap was again on his own towards the front-left hand side, away from the pack, hoping for a better line. Germany's number 43 Marcus Herwig, 22, was leading at this point.
Brazil's Diogo Villarinho took the early lead of lap 3, which the referee had to watch very carefully as the pack was starting to spread out. Last year's overall winner Simone Ruffini of Italy was then 7th in a very controlled pace.
Olympic champion Weertman slowly but surely made his way from the back of the pack to the middle. His teammate Marcel Schouten was still one of the first ones in turns with Fontaine. Fontaine ended up finishing 9th today in 1h52m48s90.
Aubry got back to the front in the fourth lap, when swimmers normally adjust their position for the rest of the competition and were the gaps in-between the group increase. At this point, Jack Brunell (GBR), Mario Sanzullo (ITA) and Kristof Rasovszky (HUN) made their way to the front.
In a stunning sprint 100m away from the turning bouy during the fifth lap, traditional indoor pool swimmer and 1,500m Olympic and World champion Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy took the lead for the first time of the race. He suddenly was side by side with very experienced Alex Reymond of France. The sixth and final lap saw Weertman coming back faster than ever to touch home first, closely followed by Aubry (1h52m42s5) and Ruffini (1h52m24s7) who completed the podium today in Doha.
Still out of breath, gold medallist Weertman, said: “This is my first win in the World Series! I am very happy about that! I have won some other races but it is nice to be this good that early in the season.
“I felt strong in the fourth lap, so I overtook in the front and immediately I saw Reymond coming. He is a very good 25km swimmer so I knew he was going to keep up the pace and I knew I had to stay on his feet. I could do that for a very long time. I also saw Paltrinieri come next to me and I know he's the fastest man in the 1,500m but I had to stay with him because I know I have a good sprint."