Leonie Beck bettered all others in today's FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series 2021 - Grand Finale. She made it two-for-two for the German open water swimming juggernaut in the 10km individual events in Abu Dhabi, matching this morning's gold medal-winning performance by teammate Florian Wellbrock.
Although Beck was not on the Olympic medals podium, her 5th place finish in Tokyo inspired a further commitment to the discipline which was confirmed today.
Beck engineered a "come from behind" finish in the final last lap, which was a demonstration of the reserve energy that she unleashed. Her winning time was 1:58.17.0, more than 2 seconds ahead of Cunha, the Tokyo Olympic Champion. Finishing in third was van Rouwendaal who led the majority of today's race.
The Yas Bay venue welcome 49 women who would battle the natural elements and each other for today's race and also for the series titles in today's grand finale of the Women's FINA/CNGS Marathon Swim World Series 2021. The water temperature of Yas Bay was 24.6 measured two hours before today's 11 am race. One athlete was disqualified and two swimmers did not finish.
Katie Grimes of the USA took off fastest in the first 1000m covering the initial distance in 11:28.9 before settling into the second position after the next 2500m leg a second behind Italy's Ginerva Taddeucci. The Italian would find her place at the front of the pack which was led by the accomplished Dutch swimmer Sharon van Rouwendaal.
In the final lap, van Rouwendaal was in top form with two Italian swimmers at the ready looking for any opportunity to take the lead. The Dutch swimmer led the pack of 7 swimmers that each hoped to be in a position to arrive at the touchpad first. Her time taken to cover the last 1500m was almost 15 seconds faster than the one before, indicating that she was no longer swimming "on cruise control". The highly decorated Dutch swimmer was the winner of the Women's Olympic 10km Marathon in the 2016 Rio Games. Earlier this year she finished second at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
In the final lap Brazil's Ana Marcela Cunha, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Champion found her sweet spot and hoped that she had saved enough reserve power to be able to pass van Rouwendaal in the final sprint. With two final turns to navigate, the Brazilian positioned herself on the inside, thereby shortening the distance of the course.
The final lap often comes down to who has the speed and who wants it more. The amount of training each invested in after the Olympic Games is certainly a factor in the final sprint and also the race result.
In an impressive and dramatic manoeuvre Germany's Leonie Beck, who was in 8th position at the 8500m mark, sprinted into the lead immediately after the final turn buoy. Although the 17:33.5 split for Cunha was the fastest covering the final 1500m, Beck's final sprint was decisive and resulted in her reaching the touchpad ahead of all challengers. Beck's last global medal was bronze in the 5km at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Korea.
WHAT THE PODIUM PLACERS HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE GRANDE FINALE
Leonie Beck GER - Gold Medal - 1:58.17.0
This is a bit of a surprise for me. I started slowly. I wanted to save energy for the finish, but I was too slow and I found myself at the very end, perhaps in the last position, so I tried to catch the first pack, then another pack, then another pack.
Then I just recognised that I’m very much close to the leaders and try to launch a final attack. Really, I did not expect to pass them so easily, but once I did, I just went with full speed.
I mean, I did the same previously in the European Cups this autumn, in Alghero and in Piombino but there were like twenty swimmers while we have fifty here so it was much harder to go forward.
I’ve just come from an altitude training camp, the first in my entire career but it seems it was good preparation for me. I’m really happy with this result.
Ana Marcela Cunha BRA - Silver Medal - 1:58.19.3
I liked today's race. The water was comfortable and I felt pretty good despite
the 10k race that I swam in Israel just 4 days ago. Open water is push-and-pull between the athletes and today was no different, but everyone was able to race. I wanted to win today to ensure that I would be the FINA World Series leader, but the calculations are complicated.
I honestly don't know if I am the winner or perhaps I am tied for first in the World Series results for the season. I was not surprised when Leonie passed me after the final buoy because she was someone who swam so well in Tokyo.
Sharon van Rouwendaal NED - Bronze Medal - 1:58.22.1
“I’m more than happy with this medal, considering that I had terrible neck pain since last Sunday and I could barely move my head around.
I tried to gain some speed early on and swim in front which I did and that helped as I didn’t need to swim with my head held high. I’m absolutely satisfied with the podium here, it was a huge field, great swimmers, I did not expect to do that well.
10km FINAL RESULTS & Prize Money for Abu Dhabi 10km Event
Leonie Beck GER - Gold Medal - 1:58.17.0 - $15,000
+2.3 Ana Marcela Cunha BRA - Silver Medal - 1:58.19.3 - $12,000 USD
+5.1 Sharon van Rouwendaal NED - Bronze Medal - 1:58.22.1 - $10,500 USD
Women's Overall Ranking 2021 after all FINA/CNSG Open Water Events
The overall series winners earn their position by accumulating points at FINA/CNSG events across the annual series, provided that they have participated in a minimum of 50 percent of events in that year, including the final event of the season.
- TIE - Oceane Cassignol FRA - 2300 points
- TIE - Ana Marcela Cunha BRA - 2300 points
- Giulia Gabbrielleschi ITA - 2050 points
- Anna Olsasz HUN - 1498 points
- Leonie Beck GER - 1300 points