Aimee Berg, FINA Press Correspondent in North America

(LAC ST-JEAN, Canada) –  The men’s and women’s open water 10km races came down to a pair of furious sprints in Lac St-Jean on Thursday at the fifth stop of the FINA/Hosa Marathon Swim World Series.  

Marcel Schouten of the Netherlands earned his first World Series victory in 1 hour 56 minutes, 10.2 seconds, leaving four Brazilian men in his wake jostling to hit the finish pad. The women’s race also ended in madness as the top three swimmers were separated by four-tenths of a second, led by Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil who captured her 20th World Series career win in two hours, five minutes, 42.9 seconds.

Schouten wins! Photo (c) Traversee Internationale du Lac St-Jean

Men’s 10km

In the men’s race, 11 of the 18 starters were still in a pack on the backstretch of the final lap, when Schouten opened up a four body-length lead entering the final turn and won his Lac St-Jean debut, followed by a crush of bodies and hands aiming for the touch pad at the end of the six-lap race. Brazilian runner-up Fernando Ponte placed second, three-tenths of a second ahead of his countryman Diogo Villarinho. A third Brazilian, Allan Do Carmo, placed fourth for the second year in a row – this time, just five hundredths of a second off the podium.

Schouten said the race didn’t exactly unfold according to his plan because he was in front most of the time. “Normally, I’m always in the back of the pack, waiting till the last three K,” he said, “But the pace was really slow, so I thought maybe it’s possible to break away. It wasn’t, so I was still waiting.”

Ponte, the runner-up said of the crazy finish, “I see five swimmers in front of me. I just think to swim hard and touch the board.” He was relieved to earn a career best result, especially since he had only arrived 24 hours before the race because his flight from New York City to Canada was cancelled on Tuesday due to bad weather. “I sleep in New York in a hotel and stayed in the airport for 12 hours. I arrived Wednesday, swim 100 [meters] in the lake and train once in the pool.”

Third-place finisher Villarinho said, “I was conserving energy the whole time for my finish because I knew it would be hard to escape in the middle of the race. When I turned the last buoy, I just tried to be alone and a little bit on the left.  Fifty meters to the finish, I did all I could.”

Even though Brazil had seven men in the race, Villarinho said they did not work together, “Oh, definitely not,” he said, “We are fighting for the best positions.”

Do Carmo whose fourth-place finish was only confirmed after a video review, said, “I’m happy with my place because the last 1,000 meters was very fast.”

Cunha, Jungblut, Arevalo go 1-2-3 Photo (c) Traversee Internationale du Lac St-Jean

Women’s 10km

The women’s race also featured all drama at the end, although at the 5km mark, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil pushed the pace and led a five-woman breakaway, but about half way around the third lap, Sarah Bosslet of Germany led a four-woman chase group back into the mix. The nine women hung together until early in the final lap when Cunha and Samantha Arevalo led a four-woman break and paced each other stroke for stoke, side by side, while Stephanie Horner drafted behind Aravalo and Viviane Jungblut drafted directly behind Cunha. Horner and Jungblut were so close and so physical that it prompted five whistles from the referees’ boat urging them to separate. In the final turn, Jungblut ditched Horner by taking the inside line around the buoy and out-sprinting the 2016 race winner.

The top three women came in fast to the finish line. With the crowd on its feet, Cunha touched first, Jungblut seemed to miss the pad on her first attempt, allowing Arevalo to celebrate second place, but a video review ultimately favored Jungblut to make it a 1-2 finish for Brazil.  

Cunha admitted afterwards that she didn’t follow her race plan which, according to her coach Fernando Possenti was “To go in front without all this emotion and all this adrenaline in the end.”

Cunha said, “It was a slow race, so I tried to do a different race after the third lap but the other swimmers caught me and slowed it down again.”

Runner-up Jungblut, who placed third here last year, said of her seemingly botched attempt to hit the finished pad, “I had too much water inside my goggles and I couldn’t see exactly correctly the touch.”
As for her battle with Horner, Jungblut said, “We are fighting to stay in the legs of Ana Marcela and we both wanted the same place. I got it,” but said she was able to ditch Horner in the end because “I was in a better position. I was inside the turn. I did a shorter line with more speed.”

Arevalo said she felt that her finish “was good because I felt very strong. I swam the best I could for the last 100 meters.” As for swimming next to Cunha for almost the entire last lap, she said, “I feel a lot of respect for her. She swims with a lot of tranquility in her own way so I felt at peace with that.” It was the Ecuadorean’s second time racing at Lac St-Jean. Last year, she placed sixth.

Arevalo and the top-three men from Lac St-Jean are all planning to compete at the next 10km event in the FINA/HOSA Marathon Swimming World Series: a point-to-point race on August 11 in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

But August 11 falls during a busy time on the 2018 swimming calendar, and many will instead compete either at the European Championships in Glasgow, August 8-11, or – like Cunha and Jungblut - at the Pan Pacific Championships whose 10km race will be on August 14 in the 2020 Olympic city of Tokyo.

FINA/HOSA 10km Marathon Swimming World Series #5, Lac St-Jean (CAN)

1.     Marcel Schouten (NED) 1:56:10.2
2.     Fernando Ponte (BRA) 1:56:11.5
3.     Diogo Villarinho (BRA) 1:56:11.8
4.     Allan Do Carmo (BRA) 1:56:11.85
5.     Victor Hugo Ribeiro Colonese (BRA) 1:56:12.4

1.     Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) 2:05:42.9
2.     Viviane Jungblut (BRA) 2:05:43.2
3.     Samantha Arevalo Salinas (ECU) 2:05:43.3
4.     Stephanie Horner (CAN) 2:05:50.9
5.     Caroline Jouisse (FRA) 2:06:03.0

Ponte, Schouten, Villarinho Photo (c) Traversee Internationale du Lac St-Jean