Marathon Swim Qualifier (Women): Anderson (USA) wins, another 14 grab London ticket

London 2012 Swimming

Women's podiumAfter giving the starting signal for the women’s FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier in the bay of Setubal, Rosa Mota, the first Portuguese female gold Olympic medallist waited less for the final of the race than her time in the 1988 successful marathon in the roads of Seoul (KOR). The “godmother” of the Setubal event saw the first swimmer to finish the 10km race in 1h44m30s6, much faster than a standard time in a women’s road marathon.

The victory came to U.S. Haley Anderson, who got the opportunity to win her “ticket” for her first Olympic appearance.

“It was long-time dream! It finally came true. It’s an amazing feeling”, said Anderson after her effort. Discreet during the first two laps of the race – there were six loops to complete the 10km event – she started to appear in the leading group only after the first 55 minutes of the race. “It was a hard race, with a lot of physical contact. In the last 500 metres, I really made a push and it paid off. I was counting on my speed and the strategy was successful”, Anderson added.

Haley Anderson (USA) - credit: José Lorvão

In fact, most of the winning strategy during the race was made by Hungary’s Eva Risztov, second at the end of the first lap, but always in the lead in the subsequent loops with the notable exception of the arrival. The Magyar swimmer got the silver (and also the qualification for the Olympics), leaving on her trail her teammate Anna Olasz (bronze, but no possibility of qualification, as only one spot was allowed per country).

The “national fights” were also interesting among swimmers from USA (Ashley Twichell finished fourth and will not be in London), Canada (Zsofia Balazs finished sixth, qualified, ahead of her country fellow Nadine Williams, not qualified), Russia (Anna Guseva, ninth, was better than Ekaterina Seliverstova, 14th, a very disappointing position after being in the leading positions for the first five laps), China (Yanqiao Fang was faster than Xue Li), and South Africa, where Jessica Roux got the continental qualification in detriment of Natalie Du Toit, a legendary swimmer who was present in Beijing 2008 for the first Olympic appearance of marathon swimming.

Eva Risztov (HUN) - credit: José Lorvão

Passing in 21 minutes for the first loop, 37min for the second, 54min for the third, 1h11min for the fourth, 1h28min for the third and then the winning time of 1h44min, the field of 40 swimmers was packed for most of the race (the water temperature in Setubal was 20°), with few exceptions getting progressive delay in relation to the leading competitors. Only one athlete did not finish, Mexico’s Alejandra Gonzalez Lara.

“For the last two years, I have been focusing on open water and it was tough to beat Ashley (Twichell) here. She is a great swimmer and a good friend”, commented the winner in Setubal. Curiously, in 2008, U.S. Chloe Sutton had also been the leader of the qualification, but ended up being only 22nd in the Olympic race.

Other qualified athletes were naturally happy with this outcome. “The race was held in very good conditions. We swam fast, but there was fair-play among the swimmers. Even packed, I didn’t feel so much the physical contact. For London, I hope to arrive in the top-8”, summarised Ophelie Aspord from France (seventh). Poland’s Natalia Charlos, eighth and also qualified for the Olympics, had a slightly different vision of the race: “The weather was a bit hot, and I felt a lot of arms hitting me. I almost lost my goggles twice. I tried to be always next to the leading athletes and I managed to stay in the front. As I like cold water, I still hope to improve in London”.

Olga Beresnyeva (UKR) - credit: José Lorvão

Besides the direct qualification of the first 10 ranked swimmers in the race – one by country – the remaining five qualification spots were given on a continental basis. The beneficiaries of these berths were Olga Beresnyeva (UKR, 15th), Cara Baker (NZL, 17th), Yanel Pinto (VEN, 18th), Heidi Gan (MAS, 28th), and Jessica Roux (RSA, 31st).

The men’s race will take place this Sunday, with over 60 swimmers on the start list. Like in the women’s race, the show will comprise acrobatic figures by planes in the air above the athletes and hundreds of spectators on site will follow the effort of the competitors.

A great race in Setubal - credit: José Lorvão