Aimee Berg, FINA Press Corresponent in US

(Lac St-Jean, Quebec) – Canada owned the podium – at least the top step of it – on Thursday in both the men’s and women’s 10km FINA/HOSA marathon swimming World Cup events at Lac St-Jean, Quebec.

Navigating choppy conditions, Philippe Guertin led the men’s race from start to finish in front of a partisan crowd sprinkled with family members.  A few hours later, Stephanie Horner won a three-woman sprint finish and now heads to Montreal to join the Canadian Olympic team as it prepares for Rio – her third Games and her first one in open water.

The men’s event quickly became a two-man race between Guertin who immediately took the lead, and Chip Peterson of the U.S. who stayed right on his heels. For nearly two hours, the pair swam 30 seconds ahead of a 10-man chase pack. Then, finally, on the backstretch of the sixth and final loop, Peterson veered left and Guertin stayed close to the feed zone. Ultimately, Guertin proved that he made the right call and seized victory in 1:57:05.  Peterson finished four seconds later for second place.  Germany’s Andreas Waschburger placed third, 11 seconds behind Peterson.

After the race, Guertin said the victory,” means everything for me.” Not only were his parents from the host city, Roberval, but last year, Guertin broke his left hand when he hit a buoy in a selection race for 2015 World Championships which, he said, “pretty much took away all the chances I had to make the Olympic team.” So Thursday’s triumph was sweet. “Today,” he said, “I feel like it was my time to show that I’m able to race with the top of the world.”

Guertin was well aware, too, that Peterson was shadowing him for the entire race. “I was checking in back of my shoulder and was like, oh my god, it’s going to hurt the last lap. I just kept following the FINA boat, and he drifted left, and that’s where I took my lead.”

Afterwards, Peterson admitted that “I may have been better off if I had stayed on Philippe’s feet longer, then just tried to outsprint him in the last 200 meters. But that’s how these races are: you think you’re doing the right thing until you know you’re not.”

Nonetheless, Peterson, who had won last year’s 10km at Lac St-Jean, said Thursday’s second-place finish encouraged him to stick with the sport even though he’s been competing at the top level of open water swimming for 11 years and just applied to medical school.

The outcome of the women’s race was much less clear until the end. Through the first four laps, nine of the 13 competitors were closely packed that one official issued two verbal warnings. By the fifth loop, five women were firmly in the lead. Only in the last lap did the top-three break away. When that happened, the lone Rio Olympian in the field, Stephanie Horner of Canada, stayed in front – where she had been for most of the race – speeding along at 79 strokes per minute. Emily Brunemann stayed firmly in second, and 41-year-old Angela Maurer remained in third, at a rate of 74 strokes per minute.

In the final 50 meters, Horner veered wide to the right while the American and German stayed left.

As the Canadian crowd urged on Horner, she didn’t disappoint the host nation, out-touching Brunemann by one second to win in 2:06:15.  Maurer finished in third, four seconds behind Brunemann.

After the race, Horner said she used Thursday’s race to practice her strategy for Rio. “I’m usually strong going out with the pack, then I tend to lose it. My focus here was really to be bold, swim in the front pack, stay there, and finish strong. It’s just weird because I was leading it. Usually my coach is like: you have to have another gear, another gear, another gear.  So in my head, I was like, ‘Oh no, am I going too fast?”

In contract, Brunemann said, “I typically go into these races without much of a strategy because you never know what can happen in open water. I always want to be toward the front of the pack, especially once we hit 5k because typically in the women’s race, the second half is significantly faster than the first, which was evident here.”

Brunemann, 29, then announced that she was retiring at the end of this season.  “I’m very excited to end my career,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful ride.  I’m just enjoying the last couple races of my career.” In December, the 2013 World Cup series winner plans to finish her Master’s degree in social work at the University of Michigan and go to work as an athlete therapist.



 
FINA/HOSA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup, Lac St-Jean (CAN)

Men
1.    Philippe Guertin (CAN)    1:57:05
2.    Charles Peterson (USA) 1:57:09
3.    Andreas Waschburger (GER) 1:57:20
4.    Eric Hedlin (CAN) 1:57:21
5.    Richard Weinberger (CAN) 1:57:26

Women
1.    Stephanie Horner (CAN) 2:06:15
2.    Emily Brunemann (USA) 2:06:16
3.    Angela Maurer (GER) 2:06:20
4.    Jade Dusablon (CAN) 2:06:55
5.    Daria Kulik (RUS) 2:07:10