Despite continuing concerns over water quality, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games test event for marathon swimming took place at Copacobana Beach at the weekend.
The races were contested by the same number of swimmers who will compete at the Olympic Games next year: 25 men and 25 women. Twelve of the 20 athletes already qualified for Rio 2016 competed at the weekend.
Great Britain’s Keri-anne Payne won the women’s race on Sunday, finishing in 2:12:18.7.
“Rio is one of my most favourite cities in the world,” said Payne, who took silver in Beijing and came fourth in London. “Copacabana has all the qualities necessary for a good venue. For an Olympic venue, it could not be more iconic, historical and fun. Swimming here is so good that there was one moment in the race when I stopped to appreciate where I was. Seeing Christ the Redeemer with his arms open while competing is incredible. We’ll be able to tell people in the future: ‘I competed at Copacabana beach.’”
Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha finished 1.2 seconds behind Payne to take the silver medal, with Germany’s Isabelle Harle taking bronze.
In the men’s race, Brazil’s Allan do Carmo, who qualified for Rio 2016 at the World Championships in Kazan, took gold in 2:03:53:9, just 0.5 seconds ahead of Japan’s Yasunari Hirai. Bronze went to Canadian Richard Weinberger, who is also already confirmed for Rio 2016, and finished 3.8 seconds behind Do Carmo. Great Britain’s Jack Burnell, who is also already qualified for the Olympics, finished in seventh place.
“This time the competition happened shortly after the world championships, but next year all the swimmers will be in peak condition – it won’t be two swimmers arriving at the finish together, it will be seven or eight,” said Do Carmo. “I’m sure the beach will be completely full for next year’s competitions, like it was for the 2007 Pan-American Games, and the energy of the fans will help the athletes even more.”
“Copacabana is a great location for an Olympic competition,” said Italy’s Simone Ruffini, the 25km world champion who came fourth on Saturday and is already qualified for Rio 2016. “Here the competition will take place in real open waters, not in lakes, like in Beijing and London (the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games).”