Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent

(Lac Mégantic, Canada) – The 10km World Cup race at Lac Mégantic, Canada, on Saturday is sure to be intense as 19 male and 21 female open water swimmers try to accumulate points and shake up the overall standings. Since this is the fifth of seven races on the tour, the outcome will be crucial.

This year’s edition will be especially hard to win because the most recent Olympians are here. Last year, they skipped Lac Mégantic because it fell just two or three days before the open water races in Rio. Also, five past winners at Lac Mégantic have returned to southern Quebec to defend or reclaim their titles.

But the race within the race – for the overall World Cup title – adds another layer of pressure for those trying to catch the world's leaders.

On the women’s side, Arianna Bridi of Italy is currently ranked No. 1 with 70 points, ahead of teammate Rachele Bruni, with 51. Bridi won last year’s race at Lac Mégantic so she clearly knows how to swim a point-to-point race (the only one on the tour). But so does Bruni, the 2015 champion who skipped last year’s race to focus on the Rio Olympic 10km where she earned a silver medal.  Bruni is on a redemptive quest here, too, after finishing an uncharacteristic ninth at the last World Cup race in July. “I re-set my brain from Lac St-Jean because that race was very bad,” Bruni said on Friday.  “Tomorrow I’ve got to do a good job for the classification FINA.” Bruni is trying to win her third consecutive World Cup overall title.

Three other women could overtake Bruni for that second ranking spot if they win here. (A victory is worth 20 points.) They are: Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha who placed third in Lac St-Jean two weeks ago despite swimming all four events – and capturing three medals – at the World Championships in Budapest just one week earlier. She said on Friday “I like point-to-point. You have a coach with you at all times [in a kayak]”; Viviane Jungblut of Brazil who just switched from pool swimming to open water and has already made the World Cup podium twice in her rookie year; and Ecuador’s Samantha Arevalo, who trains with the Italians and earned silver in the 10km in Budapest.

The men’s race is a bit tighter at the top with Federico Vanelli leading with 56 points despite a tough loss two weeks ago in Lac St-Jean to his teammate Simone Ruffini (now ranked No. 2 with 53 points) when Vanelli misjudged the finish and placed second. Another exciting prospect is 20-year-old Hungarian Kristof Rasovszky who not only won Race No. 3 of the series, in Setubal, Portugal, in June, but on Thursday, hopped off a plane from Frankfurt to Montreal, drove four hours nonstop to Lac Mégantic to make the start of the 1km race that the organizers require of its 10km swimmers, had 20 minutes to get numbered, secure his transponder, and change – and beat the entire field. He currently ranks seventh overall in the FINA World Cup. He still competes in the pool, too, and said he plans to do both for the foreseeable future.

Saturday’s 10km course begins at Piopolis municipal beach and finishes at Parc de l’OTJ which is in full festival mode. The finish area is flanked by several flipping and spinning rides and bouncy castles.

Men are scheduled to start at 13:00 local time, followed by the women at 13:15.

Saturday's forecast  is mild but steamy with air temperatures in the low 20’s C (low 70’s Fahrenheit) and 72% humidity.

Last year, the top seven men completed the point-to-point course in just over 2 hours 2 minutes while Bridi's winning time for the women was just under 2 hours 11 minutes.