Richard Weinberger (CAN) and Martina Grimaldi (ITA) win London Olympic 10km Marathon Swimming Test Event

London 2012 Swimming

Gold Medalist Richard Weingberger - credit: Mike LewisRichard Weinberger of Canada stunned a field of world champions to win the London 10km Marathon Swimming International - Test Event for the Olympic Games - by a margin of more than 26 seconds. Weinberger hasn't even qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games yet. His victory today is a confidence builder, but doesn't get him a ticket to the main event next August. While the Olympic 10km race may be circled on his calendar, he needs to earn one of the 15 remaining spot that will be up for grabs in Portugal next June at the Olympic qualifying event.
 
Weinberger defeated the men who placed first and second in the 10km event at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai last month. Thomas Lurz (GER) finished second to Weinberger today, 26.2 seconds behind the Canadian champion. Spyros Gianniotis (GRE) was third just one tenth of a second behind Lurz. Gianniotis is a first time world champion winning the 10km event in Shanghai, 2.5 seconds ahead of Lurz. The top 10 finishers from the 10km race in Shanghai qualified for the Olympic Games and eight of them were in today's field of 18 men who raced in the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London.  Weinberger placed 17th in the 10km race, ironically a little more than 26 seconds behind the Shanghai gold medallist.


"I won the wrong race, right!" said a jubilant Weinberger, alluding to the fact that had he won the 10km in Shanghai, or even finished in the top 10, he would be confirmed for the London Olympic Games. "I guess I just got lucky today. I am a cold water swimmer and the water temperature was my friend. Today's win gives me a lot of confidence for next year. I like the set up of the course, it was gorgeous."
 
Weinberger, turned 21 years old in June on the weekend before he qualified to represent Canada at the FINA World Championships. He trains under Coach Ron Jacks in Victoria, Canada and together they set in place a plan that compensated for Weinberger's lack of speed. Jacks told his athlete to find a place in the top 5 and relax until it was time to put pressure on the field with a faster pace. China's Zibin Zhang led the race for the first four laps, dropping off the pace almost exactly at the time when Weinberger was told to make his move. "It was as if the Chinese athlete was reading our playbook, Zibin Zhang really helped put pressure on the German and Greek athletes," said Jacks. "Lurz is a master of the art of holding back. We hoped that Rich's style of swimming fast would let us build a comfortable lead."

Men's start - credit: Mike Lewis, Daily News of Open Water Swimming
Men's start - credit: Mike Lewis, Daily News of Open Water Swimming


"I took a power drink on the 4th lap and then I pushed the pace until the touch pad. These guys are amazing swimmers with fast finishes and the only way I could beat them was by taking out the pace and hoping that they wouldn't catch me," said Weinberger. "I wanted to swim long and strong in the 5th and final laps knowing that the finish is the weakest part of my race. I wasn't sure where they were and I was too afraid to look back over my shoulder."

Lurz is a seven-time world champion having won every 5km world championship event since 2005. The German ace also owns a two gold medals in 2006 and 2009 10km events. "Second is always good, I'm satisfied," said Lurz who recognised that the 19.5 degree water temperature presented a challenge to him: "It is very different from Shanghai; I will need to gain weight as I see the only big difference is the water temperature. The course is very clear, and we are swimming smaller laps so all the spectators can see us. The course is perfect."
 
The 10km world champion Gianniotis swam two 400m races and a 1500m pool event just this week at the Greek national championships before flying to London last evening. "It was a very happy day for me but I was very tired. It was a hard race, I think the hardest I have swum. I just wanted to feel the venue and to see what it would be like for the Olympic Games.
 
Weinberger said: "it's my first ever victory in a FINA event and it's very encouraging for me. I'm excited for my training and I hope to be on the podium again."


Gold Medalist Richard Weingberger, with Silver medalist Tomas Lurz in background - credit: Mike Lewis, Daily News of Open Water Swimming
Gold Medalist Richard Weingberger, with Silver medalist Tomas Lurz in background - credit: Mike Lewis, Daily News of Open Water Swimming


Grimaldi fastest among women
Italian swimmer Martina Grimaldi ran down American Eva Fabian. Grimaldi let two American swimmers do the heavy lifting as she sat back to conserve her energy for the final sprint to the touch pad on the Serpentine, a lake in the middle of Hyde Park located in central London.

American Christine Jennings took out the pace leading the first lap in 19:55.3 seconds with teammate Fabian only a tenth of a second behind her. Jennings dropped back into third position on the second lap when Fabian and Grimaldi passed her. Fabian's strategy: "I wanted to stay warm at the beginning of the race and so I went out really fast," she said after finishing second in the 18.7 degree water. Grimaldi was in second and within easy reach of Fabian for most of the race. Australia's Melissa Gorman split a 20:27.3 on the third lap to get between Fabian and Grimaldi. She would relinquish her second position after that lap, dropping back into 12th place before her final push in the 6th lap to finish in 6th place.
 
Grimaldi felt she was challenged by the course: "It is a bit narrow and there were not a lot of ways to escape contact with other competitors due to the right turns. There was some contact between Eva and me but it was not as much as at some other races. Next year there will be 25 athletes in the race, it will be at a harder pace and of course there will be a lot more at stake, so I expect the Olympic 10km will be swim with a far greater intensity," said the Italian winner of today's test event for London 2012 Olympic Games.
 
Grimaldi was the 10km champion at the 2010 FINA World Open Water Swimming championships held last July in Roberval, Canada. At that same event Fabian won the 5km race. Grimaldi finished second to British swimmer Keri-Anne Payne in Shanghai last month. Payne is on holiday and taking a two week break from training or competing after racing in both the open water and pool events in Shanghai. Payne won the Shanghai race in 2:01.58.1 finishing just 1.8 seconds ahead of Grimaldi.
 
Grimaldi said "the race was much like many others, it started very slow but go faster as it went on. It has been very well organised. I think for London this has been a very good test event. I will be excited to swim here again next year." 


First Place Martina Grimaldi, Second Eva Fabian - credit: Mike Lewis, Daily News of Open Water Swimming
First Place Martina Grimaldi, Second Eva Fabian - credit: Mike Lewis, Daily News of Open Water Swimming


Neither Fabian or Jennings, who finished fourth, qualified for the Olympic Games. Fabian said: "It will be a challenge to qualify and if i get back here for the OG, I will be working hard to prepare for the intensity of more swimmers navigating at each of the turns. For me it was really helpful to be in the front of today's race. I knew the sprint was going to start as soon as we entered the final lap and then it was going to be intense for the final 300m of the race."
 
Poliana Okimoto of Brazil was third in today's test event. The Brazilian swimmer qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games with a 6th place finish in Shanghai, just 15.5 seconds behind Payne. Okimoto said: "I think 1.67m is a rather short course and I felt a little cold, 18 degrees really is cold for a swimmer from Brazil. I found that I warmed up by swimming faster and I moved up from 6th to 5th to 4th to 3rd and of course the final 200m was a sprint for place. I would be happy to earn a medal next year. I need to prepare myself better by being a little more fit and by training in cold water too. A shorter course encourages more contact and I predict it will be more intense with more people fighting for a medal in the Olympic Games."
 
RESULTS MEN'S:
1. Richard Weinberger (CAN) - 1:50.49.8
2. Thomas Lurz (GER) - 1:51.16.0
3. Spyros Gianniotis (GRE) - 1:51.16.1
4. Luca Ferretti (ITA) - 1:51.18.8
5. Andreas Waschburger (GER) - 1:51.32.6
6. Csaba Gercsak (HUN) - 1:51.43.7
7. Alex Meyer (USA) - 1:52.19.5
8. Ky Hurst (AUS) - 1:52.20.1
9. Chris Bryan (IRL) - 1:52.24.5
10. Yurly Kudinov (KAZ) - 1:52.29.0
11. Antonis Fokaidis (GRE) - 1:53.16.1
12. Zibin Zhang (CHN) - 1:53.21.1
13. Julien Sauvage (FRA) - 1:57.17.5
14. Arsenly Lavrentyev (POR) - 1:58.23.5
15. Tin Yu Ling (HKG) - 2:07.45.8
16. Marcus Yat Ho Yuen (HKG) - 2:08.17.0
 
DNF (Did not finish):  Samuel deBona (BRA) and Francisco Jose Hervas Jodar (ESP)
DNS (Did not swim):  Sergey Bolshakov (RUS)

RESULTS WOMEN'S:

1. Martina Grimaldi (ITA)  2:02:49.5
2. Eva Fabian (USA)  2:02.50.0
3. Poliana Okimoto (BRA)  2:02:51.2
4. Christine Jennings (USA) 2:02.51.4
5. Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) 2:02.51.8
6. Melissa Gorman (AUS) 2:02.56.3
7. Jana Pechanova (CZE) 2:02.56.4
8. Yanqiao Fang (CHN) 2:03.01.4
9. Angela Maurer (GER) 2:03.02.2
10. Xue Li (CHN) 2:03.04.7
11. Wing Yung Natasha Tang (CHN) 2:04.09.1
12. Linsy Heister (NED) 2:04.56.9
13. Swann Oberson (SUI) 2:06.06.6
14. Kalliopi Araouzou (GRE) 2:06.56.7
15. Marianna Lymperta (GRE) 2:06.58.7
16. Lucy Charles (HKG) 2:08.52.3
17. Fiona On Yi Chan (HKG) 2:17:58.6
18. Rachael Williamson (GBR) 2:24:22.8
Did not swim:  Ashley Twichell (USA)