Gregory Eggert, FINA Media Committee Member (USA)

Men's race

Axel Raymond battled Italy's Matteo Furlan in a tight race for the gold medal today over the 25K distance. 

The new world champion won the contest finishing in 5:02.46.5, just six-tenths of a second ahead of Furlan. 

Reymond earned the fourth gold medal for France, and the sixth medal in FINA's "open water carnival" that concluded today.  Russia's Evgenii Drattcev, the oldest swimmer in the race finished 3.4 seconds behind the French champion to earn the bronze medal. The cat and mouse game played by Reymond of France and Simone Ruffini of Italy was underway during the final 7K of the race, and provide all of the drama for the "second act" of the 25K race. 

After granting Reymond the right to lead the pace and do all of the heavy lifting, Ruffini made the move to that he had been calculating in his mind, the exact moment to strike. After 4 hours and 50 minutes of swimming, Ruffini made his move overtaking the French swimmer, and fully determined to arrive at the touchpad first. Only seconds later Russia's Drattcev veered to the far right seeking his own line to the finish. 

The veteran Russian open water swimmer accelerated his own pace to that pulled him even with the French and Italian swimmers. 

The Russian was swimming in his own space of open water while the French and the Italian swimmers swam into each other. Watching their collision it wasn't clear who had the right of way but Ruffini never missed a stroke, while Reymond came to a full stop, if only for a second. Reymond recovered from his collision with Ruffini and badly wanted to be the race leader again, launching a successful sprint to the lead. 

The French swimmer had found clear water on the far left and tactically calculated his shortest course to the finish. Rufini, the defending champion accelerated his speed to pass the Russian and attempted to catch up with Reymond. With 300m left in the race the athletes approached the yellow turn buoy with Reymond in the front, the first past the buoy, followed by Ruffini and Drattcev.  

Unless something were to go wrong, the new French face in Balaton would become the world champion, earning a fourth gold medal for France. 

Those chasing the French leader were nowhere near ready to give up.  Ruffini and Drattcev battled each other as Italy's Matteo Furlan passed them both to earn the silver medal. 

A whistle signalled the yellow card that was given to Ruffini, but he was passed by Drattcev who earned the bronze medal. Ruffini, was unable to defend his gold medal won in Kazan 2015 while Furlan upgraded from the bronze medal he won in Kazan two years ago.  

Moments after the finish the French champion and the Italian runner up were laughing and smiling. 

Furlan raised Reymond's hand to pay tribute to the winner of the men's 25K battle.

RESULTS OF MEN's 25K

Axel Ryymond, FRA  5:02.46.4

Matteo FURLAN, ITA  +6

Evgenii DRATTCEV, RUS  +3.4

Women's race

Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil won a come from behind battle for gold, retaining her title as world champion by soundly defeating the Olympic 10K champion Sharon van Rouwendaal. 

Cunha, 25, trains in Sao Palo under coach Fernando Possenti. Possenti was her coach from 2013 to 2015 and returned to take charge of her training program only eight weeks ago.  Cunha is the reigning world champion from the Kazan 2015 edition, having also won this event in Shanghai in 2011.  

Italy's Arianna Bridi earned another bronze medal in Balaton, but arrived 9.8 seconds behind the Brazilian swimmer. Bridi and Cunha tied for the bronze medal in the women's 10K race swam last Sunday.  Cunha earned two bronze medals is the 5K and 10K events earlier this week and raced in the 5K Team Event, Brazil finished in 6th place. 

Although the format of the 5K Team Event is different in Balaton, she may be the only swimmer to have won a medal in 5K, 10K, 25K and also the Team Event; she was on the Brazilian squad that took silver at the Kazan World Championships. After her touch the exuberant Cunha did a pull up at the finish touchpad, evidence that she had the energy and the confidence to win this event for a third time.

Today's silver medallist van Rouwendaal was swimming the 25K for her first time.  The Dutch swimmer looked like she was fully in command of most of the race. 

She arrived in the lead pack at the 15K mark and was one of three race leaders until the final sprint.  With 600m to go Bridi did everything she thought necessary and possible to move ahead of the Dutch swimmer. The Olympic champion wasn't going to let her 24K investment in this race be spoiled without a fight.... Heavy kicking by the Dutch champion was evidence that Bridi had met her match. The two athletes swam side by side, still a body length ahead of Cunha.  Bridi enjoyed drafting off of van Rouwendaal for nearly one third of the race, but now she was swimming out front and eventually side by side for the sprint to the touchpad Unfortunately van Rouwendaal faded in the sprint, having lead the race for at least 5K. The Dutch swimmer was in the top three of the races leaders for the last 10K but reached the finish 2.4 seconds after Cunha.   

The television commentators wondered if Cunha was staying back to draft behind the race leaders, and also questioned whether she might not have a strong finish in her arsenal. 

Any doubts about the Brazilian were shortly erased with a steady acceleration that put her into the lead, if only slightly ahead.  

With 250m to go Cunha found another gear and sprinted to another victory in the 25K.

WOMENS 25K FINAL RESULTS

Ana Marcela CUNHA, BRA - 5:21.58.4

Sharon VAN ROUWENDAAL, NED  +2.4

Arianna BRIDI, ITA  +98

QUOTES

Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA), gold

"Patience is the most important thing during the long distance, since we pass many hours in the water. Fourtunately, I managed to swim behind the leading pack, that was my plan. I knew that the arrival of the men’s pack would be the key factor, so who could follow them those would be in a better position. I didn’t care for the hot weather, because during swimming I just concentrated on myself as usual."

Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED), silver

"I was really relaxed at the beginning. I was waiting for the moment when the men were coming, then I tried to lead the women’s pack. There was eight kilometres left and I was ready to sprint and pacing. And when we arrived to the 21th kilometre I thought I would try to continue at this pace. I felt that I should get a medal. I didn’t think about the weather conditions I just concentrated on my race."

Arianna Bridi (ITA), bronze 

"It had to fight very hard to claim the third place. This was my third 25km and this is my best result at the event. The weather was too hot for me today. I hate warm water because it takes away too much energy, but I just tried to focus on my race."