All that glistens is gold for swimmers in lake Balaton
Aurelie Muller and Marc-Antoine Olivier each won two gold medals and Ferry Weertman made history as the first swimmer to simultaneously hold the world and Olympic 10km titles as arena athletes dominated the open water competition at the World Championships at Lake Balaton, Hungary.
arena swimmers won six gold, five silver and eight bronze medals, 86% of the overall total of medals available.
Muller was the first French open water swimmer to win a world title when she claimed gold in the 10km in Kazan, Russia, in 2015.
She was heartbroken after being disqualified at last year’s Olympics after finishing second but she persevered, determined to avenge her devastation.
At Lake Balaton she was ahead at the halfway mark and controlled much of the race from that point although Italian Arianna Bridi was just 0.6secs behind at 9000m.
Muller though sprinted ahead to win in 2hrs 00mins 13.7secs with Ecuador’s Samantha Arevalo second (2:00:17.0) and Bridi and Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha sharing third in 2:00.17.2 as arena swimmers enjoyed a clean sweep of the podium.
Muller was thrilled, saying: “I did not feel any pressure because of my victory two years ago. I was relaxed, I just wanted to concentrate on my swim, and I am very happy to finish first. It was a very difficult race.”
Muller returned to take silver in the 5km in 59mins 10.50secs with Cunha claiming her second bronze in 59:11.40.
Muller then joined Olivier, Oceane Cassignol and Logan Fontaine as the French quartet won the 5km mixed relay in 54:05.09 with Italy third in 54:31.00.
Weertman powered past Olivier in a three-man sprint down the finishing straight to claim victory in 1hr 51mins 58.50secs as he made history with the Netherlands swimmer now world, Olympic and European champion.
He said: “It was a very hard race, I had to do my best. After the Olympic victory, many people asked me why I decided to continue and I told them I just love swimming. I decided to move on, I haven’t stopped for a moment, and this hard work paid off.
“I knew I could write history, that has motivated me. I am happy to become the first to claim gold at the Olympics as well as the World Championships in the 10k.”
Olivier was third, less than a second behind in 1:51:59.20, a year after he won bronze at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The Frenchman said: “This event has specialists, so it was not obvious that I would be as good as I was. The most difficult part of the competition was after the last bouy, from there tactics were useless, we had to swim as hard as we could. I am really happy that I managed to do so and won a medal.”
It was Olivier’s second medal after he won gold in the 5km in the opening race of the championships in a podium occupied solely by Arena swimmers.
Second at 4km, he moved to the head of the pack for the final sprint to win in 54mins 31.40secs with Italy’s Mario Sanzullo timing his attack well for second in 54:32.10 with Tim Shuttleworth, of Britain, third in 54:42.10.
Olivier said: “The first 3000 metres weren’t perfect, but I changed tactics, and managed to finish first.”
Axel Reymond won another gold for France and another gold for Arena in the 25km, winning in 5hrs 02.46mins 4secs ahead of Italy’s Matteo Furlan and Evgenii Drattcev.
Ana Marcela Cunha won the women’s race in 5:21:58.4 with Sharon van Rouwendaal, of the Netherlands, second and Italy’s Arianna Bridi third.
It was a highly impressive effort by Van Rouwendaal in the first 25km of her career, the Dutchwoman going to the head of the leading pack after 15km.
Bridi made a move with just 600m to go and drew alongside Van Rouwendaal, who had looked likely to claim victory but she faded a little allowing Cunha to overtake both women for victory.
Van Rouwendaal said: “I was really relaxed at the beginning. There was eight kilometres left and I was ready to sprint and pacing. And when we arrived to the 21th kilometre I thought I would try to continue at this pace. I felt that I should get a medal. I didn’t think about the weather conditions I just concentrated on my race.”