What is remarkable about the top 3 finishers in the men’s 10 km world championship in Barcelona is how well the old men of the group, gold medalist Spyridon Ginniotis, silver medalist Thomas Lurz, and bronze medalist Oussama Mellouli navigate and strategize throughout the entire race.

You can almost sense them thinking, plotting, deliberating on how best to position and pace themselves at all times.

Their wisdom and savvy and sense of the race are incredible to witness. Especially as they struggle against younger men, presumably stronger.

Italy’s Mario Sanzullo recalls today’s race, “The race was a constant struggle. [It seemed like] the circuit was too tight and there were too many participants. At each buoy turn, it was a struggle. I went into the turns in a good position and then was sucked in[side] the group as I exited the turns. I definitely came home with lots of experience.”

Even those younger men with experience learned very well the difference between standing on the podium and not. Canada’s Richard Weinberger said he made a “fatal mistake” yet finished fifth, 0.7 seconds away from a medal.

The 23-year-old Weinberger missed a turning buoy midway through the race at Moll de la Fusta and was dramatically forced to leave his position near the front of the pack to repeat the turn. “I’m one of the strongest guys out there and I know I could have come first. It’s just so disappointing that I made such an amateur mistake and I didn’t notice the turning buoy pass on my right. I know I’m better than that.”

Playing catch-up by nearly the length of an Olympic pool, Weinberger battled all the way back to the front as the competitors entered the final lap, winning over the crowd with his impressive comeback. “I’m pretty proud of the fact that I didn’t give up. I tried to stay cool but I knew it was a fatal mistake and I paid for it.” As he fought back through a school of frenetic competitors, Weinberger found himself in a three-way battle for third as Gianniotis and Lurz charged ahead. Mellouli out-touched him for the bronze and Damien Cattin-Vidal of France took fourth by just 0.1 second.

We’re disappointed he made a mistake around a buoy and had to make that up. That obviously cost him a little bit more energy than he wanted to put in. He still fought really hard,” said Weinberger’s coach, Ron Jacks. “It shows a lot of character. It shows that he doesn’t give up and I think that shows a lot of substance as a person for Richard.”

Weinberger’s teammate Eric Hedlin finished 23rd in the 66-swimmer field in a time of 1:49:54 just two days after winning a silver medal in the 5 km. The 10 km did not go exactly to plan. “I didn’t exactly get the position I wanted but it’s not that I’m disappointed. From a perfect race you don’t really learn very much so I guess I learned quite a bit during that one, mainly things involving pacing.”

But in the finest mindset of open water swimmers, the athletes who were disappointed are making new plans. Weinberger has until Saturday to regroup for the 25 km marathon. “At least I know that my swimming is not the issue. I know I’m one of the fastest and fittest guys out there. I know that and they’re going to feel it in the 25 km.

Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson knows both Canadians – like nearly every athlete out there – showed their competitive spirit. “We have world-class athletes who showed their mental toughness today. The way that Eric got back in after the 5 km and was competitive in the 10, it’s a learning experience for him. Richard Weinberger, obviously there was an error in the race, but the quality of the athlete is that he could get back on terms and be there in the finish with the top athletes in the world. He’s world-class and showed that today and he’ll bounce back for the 25 km.”

Results and summary of today’s men’s 10 km world championship race are posted here.

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