Ana Marcela Cunha Charges To Gold

Ana Marcela Cunha Charges To Gold

Ana Marcela Cunha Charges To Gold
Courtesy of FINA, Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park, Gwangju, South Korea.

Déjà vu not unsurprisingly struck Ana Marcela Cunha at the FINA World Championships.

A day after she qualified for her third Olympics, Ana Marcela Cunha continued her unprecedented versatile World Championship career with a close victory over Aurélie Muller in the 5 km race.

She added a fourth gold medal in the open water sprint race with her previous two silver and four bronze podium finishes. Cunha had previously won gold medals in the 2011 Shanghai Championship 25 km, the 2015 Kazan Championship 25 km race, and the 2017 Budapest Championship 25 km race.

In previous races on the world stage, Cunha had won a 2010 Roberval 5 km bronze, a 2013 Barcelona 5 km bronze, a 2017 Budapest 5 km bronze, a 2017 Budapest 10 km bronze.

5 km Gold medalist Ana Marcela Cunha, silver medalist Aurélie Muller, and bronze medalists Leonie Beck and Hannah Moore
In contrast to Cunha, Muller just missed out at qualifying for her third Olympics by 0.1 seconds as she finished 11th just behind Sharon van Rouwendaal.  But the disappointment did not prevent the French 29-year-old from pushing Cunha to her limit.  She captured a silver finishing one second behind Cunha.

Cunha said in a post-race interview, “In the 10 km, I finished and I really wasn’t happy with that result.

Today my strategy was to swim a bit more relaxed in the first half. I was behind the girls until the third lap when I started to move up. In the final lap, I just got myself to where I needed to be.

In the 10 km with so much pressure for Olympic qualification the girls had a little more ‘fight’ in that race. I’m glad that today’s race was more swimming and less fighting. Anyone can swim well in a 5 km if they have done the training. It was not my best race, but I’m happy with a medal.

I want to tell you that I feel so badly for Aurélie because she did not qualify for the Olympics in the 10 km. I lost an Olympic qualification in 2011 and I believe I know how she feels. She is one of the best athletes here.”

Muller addressed her motivation in her post-race interview with a hint that she might retire, “I’m feeling happy, but it’s not easy after the 10 km. It was not easy, after I missed Olympic qualification. I swam today because my friend Lara Grangeon was in today’s race and I wanted to be supportive.

It’s hard to talk about this because today I swam a great race. I’m second and I’m thinking why I’m not going to swim in the Olympics. In the 5 km, I made my run a little more hidden than on the 10 km. It’s hard to come back like this, honestly I didn’t know if I could do it. I tried everything, I’m proud of myself. I figured maybe this would be my last race and I’d like to end up on something good, something positive. If it was my last race I did it well.

The bronze medal was shared with a photo-finish tie between American newcomer Hannah Moore and 22-year-old German Leonie Beck.

The 22-year-old Beck dramatically improved her world standing since she finished 24th in the 2017 FINA World Championships.  She said, “I have been training very hard over the past two years and I am pleased with my race and my first world championship medal. We have been working on a lot of speed training so that I could have a powerful finish. Our German team is sharing the energy of our recent victories. We had two girls qualified for Tokyo in the 10 km and yesterday the boys finished first and third, and also qualified for next summer’s Olympics.”

Moore is successfully transitioning her career to the open water from backstroke and freestyle events in the pool.  She said, “This has by far exceeded my expectations. I really wanted to try and be top ten at my first world championships. This is my first international 5 km so I didn’t really know what to expect.

I knew it would be really rough, just based on watching the other races. The girls went out really fast, so I tried to stay calm and be a little braver than I wanted to be, and it worked out in the end. I really thought I was further back until the very last stretch when I started to see less and less people in front.

I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I’m towards the front.  There’s a shot.’  I just used my legs more than I really wanted to – it really hurt – but it paid off in the end. It was so fun.

I’m really lucky to be here and honored to share a bronze medal today. Watching Haley Anderson win a silver medal in the 10 km and to see that she and Ashley Twichell both achieve the Olympic qualification in the 10 km really fired me up and it’s so inspiring.

I just got into this sport last year and I’m kind of learning from them and watching them. It makes me want to continue on in the future and improve from here, so I have a lot to learn. My focus for the next year will be in the pool events and I will be trying to qualify for the US Olympic team.”

18-year-old Chantel Jeffrey of Canada also felt her 5 km race was better than her performance in the previous 10 km race.  She said, “I think it was a lot better than the last bit of my 10 km. I felt like I was in a good spot, it was just a lot harder to move up because it wasn’t as spread out, but it was really good, I’m happy with my result.”

That was a much better race for [Jeffrey and 19-year-old teammate Kate Sanderson], indicative really of where we think they’re at with the ability they’ve got, both being young. They recovered well from the 10 km, reset their goals and then got into this with the attitude they really wanted to push themselves and be up there with the pack,” said Canadian Head Coach Mark Perry. “Both of them were in the pack for the whole race, they didn’t let the pack get away and they put themselves in good positions. At the level they’re at, being development athletes, it’s a great performance for both of them.”

FINA TV, CBC and Radio-Canada webcast the remaining open water races live from Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park, 90 km southeast of host city Gwangju.

Official 5 km Women’s Results:
1. Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) 57:56.1
2. Aurélie Muller (FRA) 57:57.0
3. Hannah Moore (USA) 57:58.0
4. Leonie Beck (GER) 57:58.0
5. Rachele Bruni (ITA) 57:58.7
6. Giulia Gabbrielleschi (ITA) 57:59.0
7. Ashley Twichell (USA) 58:00.0
8. Yawen Hou (CHN) 58:00.9
9. Lara Grangeon (FRA) 58:01.5
10. Maria Bramont-Arias (PER) 58:09.1
11. Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) 58:11.6
12. Angelica Andre (POR) 58:11.8
13. Paula Ruiz (ESP) 58:11.9
14. Maria de Valdes Alvarez (ESP) 58:12.0
15. Finnia Wunram (GER) 58:12.0
16. Spela Perse (SLO) 58:12.1
17. Anna Olasz (HUN) 58:12.2
18. Reka Rohacs (HUN) 58:14.8
19. Kalliopi Araouzou (GRE) 58:17.2
20. Mariia Novikova (RUS) 58:17.3
21. Viviane Junglut (BRA) 58:17.4
22. Valeriia Ermakova (RUS) 58:17.5
23. Siyu Yan (CHN) 58:17.6
24. Kate Sanderson (CAN) 58:17.7
25. Alena Bensova (CZE) 58:17.8
26. Julia Arino (ARG) 58:17.9
27. Eva Fabian (ISR) 58:18.0
28. Chantel Jeffrey (CAN) 58:18.1
29. Krystyna Panchishko (UKR) 59:44.0
30. Chloe Gubecka (AUS) 59:50.6
31. Martha Sandoval (MEX) 59:51.3
32. Michelle Weber (RSA) 59:54.6
33. Mackenzie Brazier (AUS) 59:56.1
34. Justyna Burska (POL) 1:01:33.7
35. Eden Girloanta (ISR) 1:01:37.1
36. Lenka Sterbova (CZE) 1:01:39.1
37. Liliana Hernandez (VEN) 1:01:39.2
38. Sandy Atef (EGY) 1:01:39.2
39. Paola Perez (VEN) 1:01:39.4
40. Karolina Balazikova (SVK) 1:01:40.6
41. Nataly Caldas Calle (ECU) 1:01:41.9
42. Robyn Kinghorn (RSA) 1:01:50.0
43. Maisie Macartney (GBR) 1:01:50.5
44. Tsz Yin Nip (HKG) 1:02:00.0
45. Aide Lourdes Sandoval Ayala (MEX) 1:02:00.5
46. Seonjae Ban (KOR) 1:04:26.9
47. Cho Ying Wong (HKG) 1:04:39.3
48. Jeongmin Lee (KOR) 1:04:47.0
49. Mariya Fedotova (KAZ) 1:06:24.0
50. Yanci Vanegas (GUA) 1:06:24.4
51. Ana Abad (ECU) 1:07:09.3
52. Camila Mercado (BOL) 1:11:17.4
53. Merle Liivand (EST) 1:11:19.5
54. Genesis Rojas (CRC) 1:12:55.7

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