Jordan Wilimovsky Leads Talented Field To Qualify For Rio

Jordan Wilimovsky Leads Talented Field To Qualify For Rio

Photo of Ferry Weertman (silver), Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) and Spyridon Gianniotis (Greece) by Giorgio Scala of Deepbluemedia. Article courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

If there is any athlete in Russia who looks like they are from Malibu, California, it is Jordan Wilimovsky.

He is a blonde, cool, laid-back, zen-like, confident hipster.

But underneath that veneer of California cool, the 21-year-old swimmer has the passionate intensity and focus of an athlete who puts in the hours of training every day, pushing himself beyond discomfort while swimming for miles and miles. His hipness is also augmented by an intellectually-oriented analytical mind that enables Wilimovsky to be profoundly aware of his competition and in tune with his surroundings at all times.

Even in the single moment when he swam a bit off-course in the 20.1°C, he realized the momentary errors of his ways and quickly moved back on course.

Down the final straightaway as he came barreling down towards the final red buoy, Wilimovsky was firmly in the lead. He inexplicably appeared to take a line and turn as if he were on his fifth lap. Instead of swimming towards the finish, he actually led the swimmers behind him slightly off course. But Wilimovsky quickly caught his navigational error and immediately got back on track and won going by over 12 seconds – a thorough domination of a heavily talented field.

He described the situation. “I was just trying to find the finish line. I looked to my left and didn’t see anyone and thought, ‘That can’t be good’. Luckily no one was catching me and I got back on course. I was lucky enough to have energy left for the end of the race and I hoped that I would be ready for the last 1000 meters.”

His victory enabled Wilimovsky to start planning for the 2016 Rio Olympics as the first 10 athletes qualified for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Behind Wilimovsky, there were surprises all over the final scoreboard.

Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli was far out of the running, finishing in 23rd, over 1 minute behind Wilimovsky. 2012 Olympians Daniel Fogg (14th), Andreas Waschburger (8th), Erwin Maldonado (27th), Igor Chervynskiy (25th), Yasunari Hirai (11th), Brian Ryckeman (DNS), and Ivan Enderica Ochoa (34th) all finished out of the money and will have to try to qualify for Rio via the second qualification race in 2016.

But cheers were very loud among the American and Italian fans and teammates. Both countries qualified two athletes each: Wilimovsky and Sean Ryan for the Americans and Simone Ruffini and Federico Vanelli for Italy. “I am fortunate to be a part of a great USA team,” said Wilimovsky. “There is a core group of open water swimmers and every year we get a little bit better. We are fortunate to be having more open water events and more swimmers are turning out for our races. Sean and I didn’t have a plan, instead we had our own strategies. When I came around the last buoy I turned around for a quick look and I saw Sean and knew that we were both in a good position. I’m thrilled that we both have made the Olympic team.

Hungary’s Gergely Gyurta led the race around the first two loops before Wilimovsky took over at the 6 km mark. He continued to lead the field through the 7.5 km turn. Just like his strategy at the USA domestic championships, Wilimovsky preferred to see the course from the front rather than in the middle of a lead pack.

With one loop to go, the formation of the lead pack was such that it remained anyone’s race to win. Eventual bronze medalist Spyridon Gianniotis was in eighth place after the third lap, 7.1 seconds behind Wilimvsky. The 35-year-old was literally 20 years older than the youngest competitor in the field, Ho Yin Kwan of Hong Kong who finished in 63rd place.

Gianniotis was clearly happy after sprinting to third and qualify for his fifth Olympics. “My goal was to be in the top 10 and to finish in third place is wonderful. I’m the oldest guy in the race and we joked that I could be the father to some of the competitors. I’m proud that I am 35 years old and still competing with top athletes. I saw Ferry swimming near me and passing me, but I’m pleased with my medal.

The old man of the sport was swimming for something greater than himself. “This moment is about Greece. Everyone knows the situation that our country has been dealing with and for me it has been hard to keep my focus with so much on my mind. Today I swam for my country and I think that gave me a psychological boost. I was so proud to see my flag raised.

Despite his age differentiation with the rest of the field, the multi-cultural distance swimmer is set in realizing his goals. “I have qualified for my fifth Olympic Games. I will stop swimming after Rio but it will still be my goal to be on the podium. The Olympics is the highest level of competition and I would like to go out on top. Tomorrow I start training for Rio and hopefully I will be in good condition. I hope to be in even better shape than I was at the last Olympics. It will be my first race in the sea. I have never raced in Rio but I have raced in Santos.

It was my goal to strive for 10th place but once you are in the race you see how good your tactics are working and then you can swim even better. I realized that I could finish in the top three”.

Wilimovsky used the vernacular of Southern California to describe his victory. “I am stoked with this win. I guess I surprised myself but I know that I have been putting in a lot of work with my coach. I was just trying to get into the top 10 and qualify for Rio, so I’m pretty excited. I knew this was going to be competitive race and with so many guys it was rough at the beginning. I always thought that I would be able to pull away at the end.”

Silver medalist Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands was one of the pre-race favorites to qualify and did not disappoint. “The course was really big. Navigation was hard and everyone was swimming up against each other and that made it fun for all of us, I guess. At the end, Jordan was just going crazy, and I was trying to get close, but I wasn’t close enough. I am very happy with my second place. In just two and one half week I will be heading to Rio with my coach for the test event. In 2012, I thought, ‘Maybe I can race the 10km’ and I tried to qualify for the Olympics but I finished in 30th place.

Now I can also try to qualify for the pool as I only need to drop 0.7 in the 400 free. I am also the fifth swimmer on the relay so maybe I can make a personal best and I can qualify for our relay team. I would like to be able to swim pool and open water events and maybe, if I have a good day, I can get a medal in Rio

Men’s 10 km marathon swim final results:
1 Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) 1:49:48.2
2 Ferry Weertman (NED) 1:50:00.3
3 Spyridon Gianniotis (GRE) 1:50:00.7
4 Sean Ryan (USA) 1:50:03.3
5 Jack Burnell (GBR) 1:50:05.8
6 Marc-Antoine Daniel Frede Olivier (FRA) 1:50:06.4
7 Simone Ruffini (ITA) 1:50:09.1
8 Richard Weinberger (CAN) 1:50:19.9
9 Allan Do Carmo (BRA) 1:50:23.1
10 Federico Vanelli (ITA) 1:50:23.1
11 Yasunari Hirai (JPN) 1:50:28.3
12 Axel Reymond (FRA) 1:50:28.4
13 Gergely Gyurta (HUN) 1:50:37.6
14 Daniel Fogg (GBR) 1:50:39.7
15 Simon Huitenga (AUS) 1:50:41.3
16 Andreas Waschburger (GER) 1:50:41.4
17 Lijun Zu (CHN) 1:50:46.0
18 Christian Reichert (GER) 1:50:46.4
19 Chad Ho (RSA) 1:50:47.9
Steven Munatones