Ahmed Oukda (OC Doha) and Colin Hill

Leonie Beck (GER), among women, and Marc-Antoine Olivier (FRA) in the men’s field, won today their respective 10km races in the season-opening of the 2020 FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series in Doha (QAT).

Both events, staged on the shore of the Katara Beach, were exciting with Beck clinching her first major gold medal with a time of 1h56m41s1 in the women’s race, and Olivier clocking an impressive 1h49m46s6 to top the men’s race.  

 “The races were very exciting and we are happy to start this year’s series in a thrilling fashion,” said Qatar Swimming Association (QSA) President and FINA Bureau Member Mr. Khaleel Al Jabir. “Fields for both races were very strong, with the presence of many Olympic and World champions. We now wish all the athletes the best in this important Olympic year,” he added.   

In the women’s race starting at 11h00, Germany’s Beck surprised many top-ranked athletes to win her first title in this competition. She outpaced last year’s Doha winner - Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) -, the 2019 “FINA Female Best Open Water Swimmer”, and reigning Olympic champion Sharon Van Rouwendaal (NED) by just 0.2sec. Cunha secured the silver medal after she was shown slightly ahead of Sharon – who took bronze – on a photo finish decision.           

Beck’s successful outcome was built in the final lap of 2km, after Sharon dominated most part of the grueling five-lap race. “I am very happy, this is my first international title,” Beck said after her victory. “My target was to finish among the top three or four swimmers and I am surprised to win the race. In the final lap, I didn’t know what was happening as I was only focusing to finish the race fast,” the 23-year-old added. “The temperature of water was fine as the sun was shining. The conditions were good to compete,” said Beck.   

Cunha was also a happy woman: “I’m feeling really good, it’s only five weeks after my break, so I start again the year, and it’s an Olympic year. Out of the 10 fastest girls, eight are racing here, so it was a good practice for the Games,” considered the Brazilian ace.

Bronze medallist Sharon also expressed her optimism in the beginning of an important Olympic season: “I told my coaches that I wanted to do a hard race and if I felt good then I’d take the lead and push it. After one lap, I was leading, although not working too hard. After 6km, I tried to push the pace and break up the pack a little, but a lot of swimmers stayed with me. It’s hard when there are lots of swimmers on the finish sprint, but I felt good with my pacing throughout the race.”

Former European champion Arianna Bridi (ITA) was fourth in the race with a time of 1h56m42s4, while Olympic silver medallist Haley Anderson (USA) finished fifth. 2019 overall champion of the FINA series, Rachele Bruni (ITA) touched in sixth. 

All 53 swimmers finished the women’s race.

Meanwhile, in the men’s race starting at 13h30, the 24-year-old Olivier, who won the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016, was outstanding as he secured a commending win by a margin of 12.6sec. 

“I am very happy to win the first race of the season like this,” said Olivier. “It was technically a different and difficult race for me, but the gold here will give me confidence for the other events especially for the Tokyo Olympics. I will work more to give myself a chance to win the gold medal at the Games,” he added.    

Rob Muffels (GER) won the silver medal in a time of 1h49m59s2, while world champion Florian Wellbrock (GER), who was also defending his title in Doha, had to content with a bronze medal after he finished the race in 1h49m59s3.

Fares Zitouni (FRA) and Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) got the fourth and fifth positions respectively, while Ferry Weertman (NED), 2016 Olympic champion and winner of the 2018 race in the Qatari capital, completed the race in 1h50m02s6 to finish sixth. 

2019 overall champion Kristof Rasovszky (HUN) endured a shaky start of the season, taking 1h52m08s9 to reach the finish line. 

A total of 75 athletes completed the exciting race.

This was the third consecutive year Doha hosted this FINA marathon. The second meet of the 2020 series will be held in Victoria (SEY, May 3). Budapest (HUN, June 6), Setubal (POR, June 13), Lac St-Jean (CAN, July 19), Lac Megantic (CAN, August 1), Ohrid (MKD, August 30), Nantou (TPE, September 19), Chun’An (CHN, October 15) and Hong Kong, China (HKG, October 24) will be the other host venues of the series.