Roberval 2010, Day 2: Valerio Cleri (ITA) wins 10K mens' event; third medal for Italy

Valerio CLERI (ITA) won the FINA Men's 10K event today, becoming the third Italian swimmer to medal this weekend in Roberval, CANADA in a time of 2:00.59.3. His breakaway sprint to the touch pad was noted by several of his competitors who said that it wasn't possible to catch up with him on the path to the finish line.

CLERI had earned a silver medal in the 2006 edition of the FINA Open Water World Championships when the event was held in the Italian city of Naples. Last summer the Italian placed 4th in the 10K held on Ostia beach as part of the 2009 FINA World Championships held in Rome. Yesterday, Martina GRIMALDI (ITA) and Giorgia CONSIGLIO (ITA) placed first and second in the women's 10K event held at the venue on the shores of lake St-Jean. CLERI may owe a debt of gratitude to team mate Luca FERRETTI (ITA) who was the man responsible for the pace of today's 10K. FERRETTI was either one of the leaders or in the lead pack for almost the entire race but finished in 5th place about 8 seconds behind his countryman. The Italians were just shy of capturing their fourth medal in the first two days of this competition. Ten of the athletes who competed today also competed in the Olympic 10K event in Beijing.

Evgeny DATTSEV (RUS) collected today's silver medal in the 10K race, 1.3 seconds behind CLERI. In the 2006 Naples edition of the FINA OWS World Championship the Russian swimmer placed third, just two tenths of a second behind the Italian gold medalist. Vladimir DYATCHIN (RUS) sprinted to the touch pad in order to earn his 8th FINA medal. Russia's most decorated open water swimmer has previously earned three gold medals in the 10K event winner in the Barcelona (2003) and Melbourne (2007) FINA World Championships and in the FINA Open Water World Championships held in Seville (ESP) in 2008. The Russian also holds two Silver and three Bronze medals from FINA Open Water Swimming competitions.

American Chip PETERSON took an early lead and passed through the 2.5K mark in the first position with a time of 30:35.17. His nearly two body length lead over Luca FERRETTI (ITA) and Igor CHERVYNSKIY (UKR) would hold only for about another 1000 metres. At that point CHERVYNSKIY (UKR) would take charge of the pace leaving PETERSON and FERRETTI to swim side by side about a meter back from the new leader. Just before the completion of the first loop a yellow card warning was issued in the first lap to Jan POSMOURNY (CZE).

CHERVYNSKIY took the lead close to the 4K position but relinquished it at about 6K to Julien CODEVELLE (FRA). The French swimmer who was in 15th position at the 2.5K mark, moved into 8th position at the 5K mark took over the lead with 6.5K of the race completed. He would hold the pace of the leader for only about 1000 metres. The alliance of CHERVYNSKY, FERRETTI and PETERSON was broken up only temporarily.

At 7.5K, FERRETTI (USA) was back in charge passing the third loop in 1:31:43.81. PETERSON (USA) followed about one half second back. Italian teammate Valerio CLERI (ITA) was in third position approximately two seconds behind FERRETTI. Croatian swimmer Josip SOLDO (CRO) was disqualified for unsporting conduct with another competitor. At approximately 8.5K FERRETTI (ITA) and PETERSON (USA) had broken free from the rest of the group but their advantage was closed as the athletes passed the one buoy that they were required to keep on their right. CLERI and the two Russians were making their way to the front of the pack and ready to sprint as soon as they made their final left turn at the orange buoy. The race was in the hands of the sprinters.

While parts of North America are being scorched by temperatures in excess of 37 degrees Centigrade, the milder temperature of 22 degrees meant that Lac-St-Jean would be cold and present a challenge to the athletes. Rain and dark clouds tested the spectators but the athletes were unaffected by this. The water temperature at the start area was 17.5 degrees but at the distance farthest from the start it was measured at 16 degrees. A total of 37 men entered the course at 11:30 am. Seven athletes withdrew from the competition and many of those who were ferried off the course were visibly shaking from the cold temperatures. The final swimmer had withdrawn by the 3/4 mark, almost all out of the race as a result of the chilled water temperature. In the women's race on Saturday a total of seven yellow cards were issued and two athletes were disqualified at the finish for unsporting conduct. In today's men's event only one swimmer was disqualified and only two other yellow cards were issued.

Following the finish the Italian gold medalist was asked about his race: "it was a very hard race especially since the water was so cold. I am very pleased with today's race. My strategy was to conserve my energy in the first three laps. In the fourth lap I saw the American swimmer and felt that I could catch up with him. I wasn't aware that my teammate was leading almost the entire time. It was not part of our strategy to have him lead while I rested. I just wanted to be ready for the breakout sprint. I wasn't aware of the Russian swimmers, I was just trying to have a great finish."

Valerio Cleri (ITA) - credit: Satiro Sodré/CBDA

DRATTSEV, the silver medalist offered these thoughts: "I am very pleased with my race but the conditions were very hard. We were swimming in very cold water. It was the same for all of us, but I felt that I had very good preparation for this event. I am also going to swim the 5K so I have been training for both events. With 500 metres to go I knew that this would be a race for sprinters and I saw that the Italian was very fast."

DYATCHIN left the water sneezing, almost uncontrollably but didn't feel the need to see a doctor. After a few minutes of recovery he spoke about his bronze medal race: "Today's race was extremely difficult due to the cold water. I thought I was in 20th position after the first lap but I just learned that I was actually in 25th. I was just trying to conserve my energy and move up slowly towards the front." The Russian swimmer passed the 5K half way mark in 12th position about eight seconds behind the leader. At the 7.5K mark he had advanced to 8th position, only four seconds behind the Italian leader FERETTI. "I was still sure that I had plenty of power for a strong finish, for me to start out slow is very strategic. We held our Russian qualification event only three weeks ago and in our country it is becoming more competitive, so I am still not fully rested from having to win my position at our trials."

The Russian offered comments about his longevity and consistency in the open water competitions: "I am quite certain that if the 10K event was never added to the Olympic program, I would not be swimming today. In 2004 I took an 18-month break from swimming, training at most once a week. I worked in my father's business while I tried to decide if I wanted to swim again. The fact that the 10K was added to the Olympics was a great motivator for me and it is absolutely the reason that I continue to train and to compete. For the past two months we have trained 100K every day of every week and I felt that I am in very good shape. I just wish the water was warmer today but I don't use that as an excuse for not winning the race, the Italian was just too fast to be able to catch".

Approximately 1500 spectators were on hand for the finish of the men's race. Following the medal ceremony for the Mens' 10K event the medals were presented for the Womens' 10K as Saturday's ceremony was postponed due to inclement weather. The two Italian women joined their teammate CLERI at a press conference to talk about the success that the Italians have enjoyed in the first two events. The Italian male swimmer who trains with silver medalist CONSIGLIO spoke for the Italian medalists: "There has been a growth in the interest and in the popularity of open water swimming but this is only following years and years of hard work. It is right to say that these medals are the fruits of our labors. We have great pride in what we have accomplished regardless of whether the events were contested at home on Ostia beach or here in Canada. We hope that our nation will be proud of our success and we believe that our good results will be followed by an even greater interest from the Italian media. For me, every race is about doing my best. I don't have expectations other than to do my best and I hope to be able to do this every time I enter the water."

Men's podium - credit: Steeve Tremblay

The athletes will enjoy a rest day on Monday.  Competition will resume on Tuesday with the FINA Womens' 5K event starting at 10:30 am to be followed by the Mens' 5K event commencing at 2pm at the venue on Lac-St-Jean.