Forward Ho, Chad Wins South Africa's First Gold

Forward Ho, Chad Wins South Africa’s First Gold

Forward Ho, Chad Wins South Africa’s First Gold

Photo credit Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia. Article courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Unlike the women’s 5 km race earlier in the day, the make-up for the men’s 5 km at the 2015 FINA World Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia was noticeably different.

There was good reason for the difference. While the women have 3 full days between the 5 km and Olympic qualification 10 km race, the men’s Olympic 10 km qualification race is on Monday.

This left the men’s 5 km field lacking a previous world champion including defending champion Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia. Mellouli, like others, is saving himself for Monday’s major race. But there were two previous medal winners in this event: 3-time medalist Evgenii Drattsev of Russia who won his first medal 7 years ago, and Chad Ho of South Africa.

But the biggest fish missing in today’s race was Thomas Lurz who won 7 gold medals between 2005 and 2011 in the 5 km. Luca Baldini of Italy is the only other man to have won multiple medals at this distance in the world championships.

Until today when Ho made South African history by becoming the first South African to win a gold medal in the open water in a typically close race to the finish. “I’m over the moon, I honestly couldn’t believe the result. Today’s race was brutal, the wind was something else.” But the all-time winner of the Midmar Mile has an outstanding navigational IQ. “I had to fight the wind just to get a nice line. It was a perfect start to my World Championships. I know that I had done the work and it paid off in the end. Going into the last 400 meters, I told myself ‘you can do this’ and I repeated this a few times as I sprinted for the finish line. As I entered the final sprint I wanted to be close to the left lane rope so that I could breathe to the right. I saw Rob and Matteo and thought ‘On no!” but I found my legs and my second wind. That’s what open water swimming is all about, the very close finishes like today.”

Rob Muffels finished second to capture Germany’s 12th medal in this event, the most of all countries. Germany continued to demonstrate its consistent dominance in the 5 km by winning a medal in all 12 FINA World Championships since 2002. Matteo Furlan of Italy claimed the bronze.

Muffels explained from his perspective. “The race was pretty fought with a lot of fights in the water with my colleagues. I had an easy first lap and I was first to the final buoy which is where I wanted to be, but after that I found myself just a little bit off course. About 100 meters from the finish I saw Chad and Matteo in front of me and I knew that I had to stay close to both of them. I tried to push my limits thinking it was time to ‘go hard or go home’. The sprint was perfect and I am very happy with the results. Chad had a better touch than me.”

Furlan described his podium performance, “It’s my first world championships and I am happy for a bronze medal. In the first lap I was stuck in a pack with lots of swimmers and it was a challenge for me to break away. At the last buoy I thought I was free and I hoped it would be easy to break away. I found a way to sprint to a third place finish.”

Men’s 5 km Final Results:
1 Chad Ho (RSA) 55:17.6
2 Rob Muffels (GER) 55:17.6
3 Matteo Furlan (ITA) 55:20.0
4 Evgenii Drattcev (RUS) 55:20.4
5 Florian Wellbrock (GER) 55:20.6
6 David Heron (USA) 55:20.7
7 Celeb Hughes (GBR) 55:21.9
8 Mario Sanzullo (ITA) 55:22.7
9 Victor Colonese (BRA) 55:24.4
10 Antonio Arroyo (ESP) 55:24.6
11 Alex Meyer (USA) 55:25.3
12 Sergey Bolshakov (RUS) 55:25.3
13 Mark Papp (HUN) 55:25.3
14 Samuel De Bona (BRA) 55:25.9
15 Ivan Enderica Ochoa (ECU) 55:26.3
16 Nico Manoussakis (RSA) 55:26.5
17 David Andre Aubry (FRA) 55:28.5
18 Jan Kutnik (CZE) 55:28.8
19 Daniel Szekelyi (HUN) 55:28.9
20 Jarrod Poort (AUS) 55:31.1
21 Igor Snitko (UKR) 55:31.7
22 Axel Reymond (FRA) 55:31.8
23 Tom Allen (GBR) 55:32.0
24 Igor Chervynskiy (UKR) 55:32.2
25 Santiago Enderica (ECU) 55:32.3
26 Yuval Safra (ISR) 55:33.2
27 Antonios Fokaidis (GRE) 55:33.6
28 Vasco Gaspar (POR) 55:36.4
29 Vit Ingeduld (CZE) 55:38.5
30 Tamas Farkas (SRB) 55:38.6
31 Gustavo Giovanni Gutierrez Lozano (PER) 55:46.6
32 Sam Sheppard (AUS) 55:53.6
33 Wilder Carreno (VEN) 56:04.3
34 Shai Toledano (ISR) 56:06.0
35 Jintong Yang (CHN) 56:07.6
36 Fernando Betanzos (MEX) 58:25.7
37 Yuanpeng Lang (CHN) 59:42.8
38 Kenessary Kenenbayev (KAZ) 59:47.0
39 Christian Tirado (MEX) 59:47.8
40 Walter Rodrigo Caballero Quilla (BOL) 59:50.8
41 Avila Emilio (GUA) 1:00:31.2
42 Timur Abzhnov (KAZ) 1:01:54.2
43 Ho Yin Kwan (HKG) 1:02:42.7
44 Cristofer Lanuza (CRC) 1:02:49.1
45 Marek Pavuk (SVK) 1:02:49.4
46 Tsz Fung Tse (HKG) 1:03:10.3
41 Abdulla Ali Hatim Ali Mur Albalooshi (UAE) 1:09:39.3
OTL Amgad Elssaflawe (SUD)
OTL Ahmed Adam Abdelrahman Adam (SUD)
DNS Hector Ruiz (ESP)
DNS Ivan Sitic (CRO)
DNS Ricky Anggawidjaja (INA)

Editor’s Note: We love it when little guys have a big heart. Ho is one of the least tall athletes on the professional level in the sport of open water swimming. But he has never let his size become an excuse for not competing and not realizing his full potential. His heart more than makes up for his lack of size. We have had the pleasure to see Ho workout and train, early in the morning and out of view of spectators or fans; he quietly and diligently goes about chasing his dreams. His depth of passion and plethora of preparation are what makes him a champion.

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Steven Munatones