Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands won his second major 10km title today at Lake Balaton, his ever so slight margin of victory just .1 of a second. The Olympic champion from Rio last August covered the race in 1:51.58.5 just barely beating Jordan Wilimovsky of the USA, the defending champion from Kazan 2015. The American swimmer and newly minted silver medallist navigated the final turn buoy in first position and successfully overtook France's Marc-Antoine Olivier who would finish in third, .7 of a second behind the Dutch champion.
A total of 65 men dove from the starting platform into Lake Balaton for the most prestigious open water swimming event. The 10km event is the only open water swimming event on the Olympic programme for men and women. Both the air and water temperatures had warmed compared to the conditions in the men's 5km event on Saturday. The air temperature was 26 degrees at the start of the race and the water temperature rose to 23 degrees.
As expected, the waters of the placid lake would be churning with the presence of Olympic gold medallist Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands and the French swimmer Marc-Antoine Olivier who finished third in the race on Copacabana beach last August. Olivier won Saturday's 5km event finishing ahead of 61 challengers. Also in the impressive field was Jordan Wilimovsky of the USA who won the 10km race in Kazan in 2015 and finished in 5th place in the Rio Olympic Games, 3.4 seconds behind the Dutch winner. Absent from the Balaton field is Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece who turned 37 years old in February.
Within metres of their departure from the starting platform the men converged on the swimmer who was brave enough to take the lead. Austria's David Brandl set the early pace with Jack Burnell of Great Britain swimming closely behind. By the 1500km mark Burnell had taken charge of the pace, covering that distance in 17:06.50 with the Austrian only .4 of a second behind. Italy's Federico Vanelli was a distant 7.5 seconds behind, likely his effort to conserve energy for the final 1000m of the race.
Some athletes like to swim in the front and set their own pace, others are happy to stay in the middle or the rear where they can find more space. Almost half of the swimmers, a total of 31 men swam the 5km on Saturday. For the fittest athletes, the 5km serves as a perfect warm up for today's 10km. For others, the previous 5km swim may take its toll.
Rob Muffells of Germany finished only 38th in the men's 5km, perhaps the earlier race was a tune up for today's main event. At the 4500m mark the German held a comfortable lead over Russia's Evgenii Drattcev and Austria's Brandl who were swimming in their own space 2.5 and 5.1 seconds behind the German race leader.
At the midpoint of the race, the new leader was Russia's Kirill Abrosimov who elected to take charge of the pace of the race. Britain's Burnell was swimming just over the shoulder of the Russian leader. Burnell seemed to be comfortable in the second position allowing someone else to do the work and drafting off whoever was swimming ahead of.
Germany's Muffels lead at the 6500m mark in 1:14.09.7. The German swimmer caught up to Abrosimov and passed the Russian swimmer to establish a 1.5 second lead over his closest rival. Italy's Vanelli was only 1.6 second behind the German leader but swimming in such close contact, the Italian drew a yellow card warming from the officials.
The cheers for Kristof Rasovszky during Saturday's race were just a whisper compared to when the Hungarian swimmer took the lead today at the 7500m mark. Rasovszky had covered three-quarters of the race distance in 1:23.34.4. Following just two seconds behind was the 5km champion Olivier of France. Great Britain's Burnell, intent on being in the best position for the final sprint was 3.3 seconds back, conserving his energy and preparing himself too for the final sprint. Muffells of Germany was swimming just behind the three race leaders.
By the 8500m mark the USA's Wilimovsky, the 10km champion, had joined Saturday's 5km winner Olivier of France for race leadership. In the lead pack of 12 swimmers, there were 5 FINA world champions and two Olympic medallists.
Watching the race on the video screens it appeared that Olivier had a slight lead but Wilimovsky continued to acellerate in any effort to be in the lead at the final turn around the yellow buoy. The swimmer from the USA took the inside track closest to the buoy hoping to have the straightest line in the final sprint. Olivier was on the American's right while the Olympic champion Weertman powered his way on the right to be even with the French and American swimmer.
It was nothing but an all out sprint to the touchpad, anyone's guess who would arrive first. Then the question was which athlete would hit the touchpad first. Olivier who was swimming in the middle of the three athletes was the only one to have raced the 5km on Saturday. Weertman and Wilimovsky were both fresh and perhaps it gave them the slight advantage. The 25-year-old Weertman hit the touchpad first finishing the race in 1:51:58.5 followed by the 23-year-old American swimmer only .1 of a second behind. Today's medals may have been a result of the height advantage possessed by Weertman. The Dutch swimmer is 189cm (6' 2") tall and likely has a longer reach than the American who is 11cm (4") shorter (178cm 5"10"). Burnell of Great Britain, disqualified from the Rio Olympic Games, finished just off the medals podium in fourth place, 2.3 seconds behind the winner.
FINAL STANDINGS of 10km
WEERTMAN, NED - 1:51.58.5
WILIMOVSKY, USA + .1
OLIVIER, FRA + .7
BURNELL, GBR +2.3
RASOVSZKY, HUN +3.2
Ferry Weertman (NED), gold
“Last year after my victory at the Olympics I needed a big rest, and many people asked me whether I would continue swimming or not. The answer was yes since I love swimming. I have worked very hard for this result, and I managed to win the gold medal. In the last part of the race I realised that Marc, Jordan and Jack were in the first three places, but I was relaxed, knowing that I have a very strong finish. After nearly two hours of swimming you feel of course tired, but you know that your rivals feel the same”.
Jordan Wilimovsky (USA), silver
“I was the reigning champion in this event, and of course my goal was to defend my title, but I am still very pleased with this result, I cannot complain about my swim. I tried everything I could. There are plenty of very good swimmers in the 10k, so the silver medal is all right".
Marc-Antoine Olivier (FRA), bronze
“I was very happy to win the 5k on Saturday, but after that I tried to concentrate on the preparation for the 10k. I knew I would have very strong rivals, even some specialists in this race, but my goal was of course to win another medal. I had the same tactic like Jordan and Ferry, we both have a strong finish, in the end it was enough for third place for me. French open water swimmers are so successful, because we work very hard, we have an excellent coaching staff”.