Roberval 2010, Day 4: Alex Meyer (USA) and Linsy Heister (NED) capture 25K titles

ALEX MEYER (USA) chased Valerio CLERI (ITA) down in the sprint and got to the touch pad 1.1 seconds ahead of his rival in an exciting sprint to the Men's 25K event. This was MEYER's first medal in a FINA event. Petar STOYCHEV (BUL) earned his second ever bronze medal in a FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships.  

In the women's edition, Linsy HEISTER's (NED) lead over her competitors grew after each loop she completed. Her winning time of 5:52:13.0 was 3 minutes and 26 seconds ahead of Margarita DOMINGUEZ CABEZAS (ESP). Celia BARROT (FRA) finished in third place. HEISTER placed 6th in the 2009 FINA World Championships on Ostia Beach last summer. The two 25K events held today were the final events of the 6th edition of the FINA World Championships held on the shores of Lac St-Jean in Roberval, Canada.

MEYER's performance covering the 25K course in 5:32.39.3 gave the American team their second gold medal of the FINA Open Water World Championships; Eva FABIAN won the women's 5K on Tuesday. CLERI earned his second medal of the championships after winning his gold medal in the 10K event held in the frigid waters of Lac St-Jean on Sunday. Petar STOYCHEV (BUL) finished third to collect a bronze medal. He is the nine-time champion of the Traversee du Lac St-Jean and now owns one silver and five bronze medals in FINA world championship competition.

"Winning this race really means more to me than my graduation from Harvard University in May" said the 25K champion MEYER from the USA. "I am an open water swimmer and very proud of what I do. I identify with this sport and also with the athletes competing here. I have put in a lot of work in open water swimming so this race was very important to me. CLERI, is one of the worlds best open water swimmers. I thought he would be the fastest in the field today and he would be the one I would need to beat if I wanted to win this race."

The women's champion HEISTER offered her thoughts about today's 25K race: "I felt really good today, very strong and in the 6th lap I made my plans to escape from the others. At this point the American (Emily HANSON) was swimming ahead of me and I felt this was time for me to make my move. To win this event is still so unreal to me, I still can't believe it. I don't have eyes in the back of my head and I didn't know what is going on behind me so I just kept swimming. You are always afraid that someone is coming up behind you. I saw boats and I didn't know if they were for the men or for the women, so I just kept going to stay ahead. I did not expect such a big gap. I thought the margin was only a few seconds. If I had known that it was a few minutes I would have swum more relaxed. The 10K is my priority race. I am swimming the 10K and the 25K in European Championships in Budapest."

The American MEYER offered praise to his competitors: "Both of the Italians deserve a lot of credit today, they pushed the pace and did a lot of work leading this race. I think I snuck up on CLERI, I don't think he knew I was close behind him. I wasn't affected by the wind, we have been on the lake for more than a week and I am used to the wind and to the course."

When asked, MEYER told the Canadian media that he was entered in the 32K Traversee crossing: "I also have the 10K event at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in August and that is an important event so I need to talk to my coaches and I will make a decision tonight. If you ask me for an answer now I can tell you that I like this lake very much and I might decide to swim the Traversee. I won't make that decision until I speak with my coaches."

MEYER continued: "I raced CLERI in Rome last summer and I was disqualified with only 50 metres to the finish. I mistakenly swam over the top of one of the women that I was trying to pass in order to get to the touch pad and I was ejected from the race. I learned from that and I gained a lot of experience in swimming against the Italian in the World Championship competition. I was more prepared for these World Championships after having competed in Rome. I didn't have a plan for today's race, I just wanted to get in and stay with the leaders. There were a couple of times where I had to swim hard to move up or to just keep my place during breakaways, it was energy worthy spending, but it hurt."

Asked about the final sprint MEYER offered: "I know that CLERI wasn't taking a straight path and he was trying to cut me off when I tired to swim on a course to the finish. I felt that I am a better sprinter, and I knew that if we were even or if we were stopped dead in the water with 50 metres to go, I was sure I could get to the touch pad first."  

The Italian swimmer CLERI was the 25K champion in the 2009 FINA World Championships and 4th in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games 10K event. He offered his own thoughts about racing in Roberval: "I was really satisfied with today's race and especially pleased with the 10K result. I don't think that I made any mistakes this week in Roberval. Today and Sunday's 10K were both important races but if I had to chose between them I would chose the 10K event because it is the Olympic event. In the last 100 metres I didn't care if we were on a straight line, the only thing that was important was my position in relation to the American. In the sprint I was without energy due to my efforts in the 10K". CLERI's coach Emanuelle SAACHI (ITA) spoke about the 25K race: "It was a very hard race.  Twice he tried to breakaway and he just didn't have the power to get far out ahead of the others. His stronger event is the 10K and his victory in Sunday's race was the greatest achievement of his career. He did everything possible to win today, but a second position is a very good result for him."

Petar STOYCHEV (BUL) earned his first FINA medal since the bronze he earned in the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona. "Today was a very good race, it is always a success when you are on the podium. I offer my congratulations to the fast swimmers but I was disappointed by the American because I was scratched several times by his long nails. The officials must inspect more carefully and be sure that no one has long nails in the race, it must be fair for everyone. CLERI is a very fast swimmer, he is the top open water swimmer in the world right now, he is a hard worker and he is in great shape. I saw him making a breakout at the 7th lap and I thought it was very early for that. I also thought that I was the only one behind the Italian and assumed that I was in the second position. Eventually I saw the American was ahead of me after the breakaway. I tried to go with them and I know we lost the pack and they never caught up with us again. I still have a FINA 10K World Cup event in Roberval and on the 31st I will compete in the 32k Traversee du Lac St-Jean. I am not going to Budapest and I hope that I have enough time to recover so that I can swim strong in the race across this lake later this month."

STOYCHEV is a local hero in Roberval where he will compete in the 56th edition of the 32K crossing of Lac St-Jean on July 31st. STOYCHEV (BUL) has won the event nine times previously and will be seeking his 10th consecutive title later this month. STOYCHEV also holds the world record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel and is the only man to cross in a time under 7 hours. His record time of 6:57:50 was set on August 24, 2007 in his second crossing from England to France.

Men's podium - credit: Steeve Tremblay

Margarita DOMINGUEZ CABEZAS (ESP) the silver medalist in the women's 25K said "it was a very hard race mostly because of the waves. At the 7th lap when HEISTER made her breakaway I tried to go with her but I wasn't able to keep up. I swam with Celia BARROT for almost two laps trying to stay close with her until I was ready to breakaway and swim for a strong finish. I was 4th in Rome last summer and a second place in Roberval is a happy result."

The bronze medalist BARROT (FRA) expressed her thrill with a FINA medal: "It was a difficult race, I was cold and this was my second 25K in the last month. I am still gaining experience but it was a very good result for me. A year ago I placed 5th in Rome so I am very happy with third place today."

Today's 25K races were held on a spectacular sunny morning in Roberval. Thirty-four athletes entered 20 degree waters of Lac St-Jean with a 30km westerly wind at their backs. Twenty men left the bright blue starting docks at 9am and were followed 15 minutes later by 14 women, each seeking a medal in the 25K event. The air temperature was 20.8 degrees at the start of the race on the final day of the 6th  FINA Open Water World Championships. The water temperature at the finish was 22 degrees. Athletes completed 10 loops in this 25K event, hosted by the Roberval 2010 Organising Committee. This group is best known for organising the Traversee Internationale du lac Saint-Jean, the 56th edition of the 32K swim to be held on July 31st.

A huge disappointment for Martina GRIMALDI (ITA); the Italian champion in Saturday's FINA 10K event was disqualified by race officials in the third loop and prior to reaching the 7.5 mark for her hand touching the feeding dock. She left the water in tears explaining to her coach that she made contact with the dock inadvertently. Her coach was also very disappointed; he felt she was having a great race and was in second position as she headed for the feeding station. GRIMALDI speaking through an interpreter said "I stopped to drink and there were many others coming in at the same time. Someone pushed me and instinctively tried to steady myself and I touched the dock only to gain my balance; it was completely by accident. I am very angry as I thought I could win this race. I felt very comfortable with the race and confident after winning the 10K so easily. On balance, I am very pleased with my performances at these World Championships."

The Italian's disqualification would surely factor into the team scores for the FINA Championship Trophy. However, Italy won the FINA Championship Trophy outscoring the Americans by five points, 116 to 111. The Italians were the men's team champions scoring 64 points to the Americans 56 points. The Italian men scored 28 points in the 10K and the 25K events and 8 points in the 5K race. The American men scored 14 points in the 5K, 18 points in the 10K and 24 points in the 25K.

The USA women were the women's team champion scoring 29 points in the 5K event, 6 points in the 10K race and 20 points in the 25K. The Italian women placed second in women's team points tallying 18 points in the 5K race and 34 points in the 10K but they were shut out in today's 25K. The team from Russia placed third with 62 Team Championship points.

Women's podium - credit: Steeve Tremblay