Petar Stoychev (BUL): first gold for last world appearance

Shanghai 2011 - Open Water Swimming

Petar Stoychev - credit: Giorgio ScalaPetar Stoychev, the accomplished Bulgarian open water swimmer won his first FINA title in the 25km event at Jinsan Beach in Shanghai on the same day that he announced his retirement from future FINA world championship competition. Three time world champion Vladimir Dyatchin of Russia finished 35.8 seconds behind Stoychev to earn the silver medal. Csaba Gercsak of Hungary swimming his first ever 25km race collected the bronze medal, his first medal in a FINA competition.

Stoychev, 35, competed in the 10km event earlier in the week hoping for a top 10 finish and an opportunity to qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games. His 27th place finish in the 10km, 1:14.8 seconds behind the winner was a great personal disappointment. It likely factored heavily in his decision to say that he won't compete in the 2013 FINA worlds in Barcelona. His disappointment in the 10km result may also served as his motivation to secure a world championship title in what he says is his final FINA competition.  

Stoychev was the flag bearer for the Bulgarian Olympic team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. He placed sixth in the Olympic 10km Marathon, 17.5 seconds behind gold medallist David Davies of Great Britain. Stoychev also swam in the 1500m freestyle in Beijing and ranked 30th after the preliminary heats.

Stoychev is the only athlete to have competed in 12 consecutive FINA open water world championship events and until today had never won a gold medal. Stoychev retires with a total of seven medals including a silver in the 2000 FINA Open Water World Championships held in Honolulu, Hawaii. He owns a total of five bronze medals including the two he captured in the 10km and the 25 km open water events at the 2005 Montreal Worlds.  

In 2007, Stoychev became the fastest person to swim across the English Channel in a time of 6h57m, eclipsing the previous record set by Christof Wandratsch in 2005 of 7h03m. Stoychev has swum at many locations around the world and was the overall winner of the Open Water World Cup eight times.

The Bulgarian offered these comments about today's 25km race: "When I saw the temperature on the white board at the 12.5km mark, it read 31 degrees which is very hot. I expected it might be the final lap and I tried hard to be in the first position for what I thought would be a sprint to the finish at the 15km mark. My coach told me that we are still waiting for the decision about cancelling the rest of the race and that it was better to keep on swimming. I understood I should keep on swimming, which was the decision of the referee. For me it's just following the decision of the referee and of my coach. I had only one thing in my mind and that was to win the race, regardless of whether it was 10km, 15km or 25km."

"I never really focused on the world championships in the past. I have competed in a lot of grand prix, world cup and in many invitational events. When the 10km event was added to the 2008 Olympic Games, the Olympics became a priority for me. After the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, I began to think about winning a gold medal at the world championships, and I was focused on qualifying for the next Olympics too," said Stoychev. "If I qualify for the 2012 Olympics at the qualification event in Portugal, I will end my career in London following the Olympic 10km Marathon. My purpose is to participate in the Olympic Games. Seven medals is enough, for someone 35 years old. It's time to move aside and find another direction."

Dyatchin, the Russian silver medallist said "the temperature was no problem for me although I thought the race was going to finish at 20km. I had already pushed myself for eight laps and I was not sure that I had enough power left for the last two laps. In my opinion, Petar Stoychev is the best swimmer in the world at distances of 25km and longer."

Dyatchin found his way to the podium for a third time this week when he accepted the FINA Open Water World Championships Trophy for his nation. Dyatchin spoke about his Russian coaches and team leaders who stressed the objective of winning the Championships Trophy for their nation during their training camps: "It's good that we won this trophy and it will encourage more swimmers to become open water swimmers in Russia".

Dyatchin was the bronze medallist in the 25km event at the 2009 Rome FINA World Championships. In Beijing, he was disqualified in the 2008 Olympic Swim Marathon 10km. His medal haul in FINA world championship events includes four gold, three silver and four bronze medals. In the 10km event held earlier this week in Shanghai, Dyatchin placed ninth and joins Sergey Bolshakov as one of two Russian swimmers who are qualified for the London Olympic Games.  

Hungarian bronze medalist Gercsak, 22 years old, was still drained from his 25km race: "During the race, I wasn't really thinking about the water temperature. I just tried to focus on swimming, I felt it was hot, but I didn't know the degrees. Although I am physically exhausted right now, I am very happy because this is my fourth world championships but the first time I have won a medal. I have swum the 5km and the 10km at each of the last three world championships, but in Shanghai I raced in all three distances."

The Hungarian swimmer trains at The Ohio State University in the United States and competes in the 400IM, 500 yard and 1650 yard freestyle events. He may have been the only athlete to have competed in the 5km, 10km and 25km events in Shanghai.

No Olympics, but gold in the 25km

Among women, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil touched first at 5:29:22.9, just ahead of Angela Maurer of Germany at 5:29:25.0 and Alice Franco of Italy who finished at 5:29:30.8.

The Brazilian gold medallist said that she was "very emotional about winning the gold medal in world championships. I'm so happy to be here!”. Cunha finished in the 11th position in the 10km event earlier this week and missed the qualification for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The Brazilian champion swam to a bronze medal at the 2010 FINA Open Water World Championships last summer in Roberval, Canada. Her nation's medal tally now stands at one gold, two silver and two bronze in women's open water competition.

credit: Giorgio Scala
credit: Giorgio Scala

Angela Maurer of Germany was the FINA world champion in the 25km race in Rome two years ago. She picked up her ninth FINA open water medal finishing in second place, 2.1 seconds behind the Brazilian world champion. Earlier in the week the German ace placed eighth in the 10km event and earned her ticket to the 2012 London Olympic Games. She will join fellow German swimmers Thomas Lurz and Andreas Waschburger who also qualified for the 2012 Olympic 10km Swim Marathon.  

Maurer expressed her concerns about today's 25km race: "The water was hot today. I was angry because in the sixth lap my coach told me that the water temperature was 31 degree and that we only had to swim one more lap. In the seventh lap he told me to finish the race regardless of the temperature. I think the water temperature was over 31 degree and I was already very tired after eight laps. I don't know what the temperature was but I feel that after six or seven laps, the water got warmer and warmer. I was not thinking to get out of the race because I'm tired but I'm not so tired that I can't finish the race after eight laps. I felt better after one hour and I tried to keep my concentration. Athletes have no other options but to trust their coach and to trust the referees. We have no chance to change anything. What can you do during a race besides swim?"

With Alice Franco’s medal, the Italian women now have a total of 18 open water swimming medals, four gold, seven silver and seven bronze moving them up to third place behind Germany with 25 medals and Russia with 24 women's medals. Before the Shanghai World Championships the Italian women were tied with Netherlands with 16 medals each but the Dutch did not pick up any medals in open water swimming this week.


Russia 92 points
Italy 82 pts
Germany 72 pts
USA 57 pts
Greece 56 pts