FINA, the international governing body for swimming, kicked off its open water season last weekend with two races in Argentina.
On 4 February, 19 men and 19 women took to the water in Patagones-Viedma for round 1 of the 2017 FINA/HOSA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup. The 10k swim took place in challenging conditions with swimmers having to deal with wind, rain and cool conditions.
In the women’s race, Italy’s Arianna Bridi took the lead with 2.5km to go and held on to win by a significant margin in 2:11:30.42. Second place was tightly contested with Italy’s Rachele Bruni and Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto bearing down on the finish line shoulder to shoulder. The two had been in this position last summer at the Rio Olympics where they were promoted to the podium after Aurelie Muller from France was disqualified for impeding Bruni. Back then, Bruni was able to hold on for silver. This time, they were judged to finish together, in a time of 2:12:13.54.
The Italians grabbed the top two places in the men’s race too. Federico Vanelli made his move at the half way point and claimed gold in 1:57:02.42, a margin of nearly 30 seconds over his compatriot Simone Ruffini. In an unusually splintered field, France’s David Aubry claimed the bronze medal almost another minute further back.
The next day, swimming action moved to Santa Fe for the punishing 57km first round in FINA’s Open Water Grand Prix series. Italy impressed again in the women’s race with Barbara Pozzobon and Alice Franco taking gold and silver in 8:53:42.79 and 9:01:20.70 respectively. Aurelie Muller of France took bronze with a time of 9:05:13.68. And yes, that is nine hours of swimming!
Italy could perhaps claim to be slightly disappointed when local hero Damian Blaum spoiled their complete clean sweep of the top medals when he claimed gold in the men’s race in a time of 8:28:16.14. However, Edoardo Stochino of Italy took home the silver in 8:33:50.43, giving the Italians a total of seven gold and silver medals for the weekend. Third place went to Macedonia’s Evgenij Pop Acev who, after eight and a half hours in the water was less than half a second further back.