Meghan Lynn, Assistant editor of “FINA aquatics World”

The first race of the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix 2009 took place over the weekend (February 1, 2009) with victories for Petar Stoychev (BUL) – who has been the overall winner of eight consecutive major FINA open water world series’ since 2001 – and Linsy Heister (NED), who has great potential to become a long-distance star after placing fourth in the 25km at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships in Seville (ESP). The race was 57km long – the longest on the Grand Prix circuit this year - with a run-time of between 8 and 10 hours of swimming. Fourteen men and eight women participated.

Competition commenced at 10am. Air temperature was 20°C and water temperature was 26°C. Reports from FINA delegate Dr. Mohie Farid indicate it was raining for the first four hours of swimming, followed by cloudy weather for the duration of the race.

For the first two hours, the leaders of a group of about 13 swimmers were Alex Studzinsky (GER) and Rostislav Vitek (CZE). Britta Kamrau Corestein (GER) and Heister were the leading women. By four hours, the leaders had changed to Damian Blaum (ARG), Vitek, and Studzinsky about 50m ahead of the rest of the group. Esther Nunez Morera (ESP) and Camilla Frediana (ITA) had joined Kamrau Corestein and Heister in the lead of the women’s field. Studzinsky then left the race.

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Rodolfo Valenti

After seven hours the leaders were Gabriel Villagoiz (ARG), Blaum, Vitek and Andrea Volpini (ITA). Kamrau Corestein and Heister had extended their lead ahead of the rest of the women by 1km. With only one kilometre left to swim, Vitek was the leader, just ahead of Blaum, Rodolfo Valenti (ITA) and Stoychev, who had made his way to the front. With just 400m left Stoychev was leading Blaum, Vitek and Valenti by a mere 1m, but it proved to be enough to take the win and they finished in the same order.

Among women, Kamrau Corestein was leading Heister by 2m with about 500m left to swim, but in the final 200m Heister accelerated and finished first about 5m ahead of her opponent.

The competition was watched by up to 100,000 people placed all around the Coronda River. The beach at Coronda and the river were full of boats and supporters. It was also filmed live for national television and about 30 other media personnel covered the event.