The Closest Open Water Race In History

The Closest Open Water Race In History

One of the most competitive, exciting races in the annals of open water swimming – indeed in all of aquatics – left many swimmers, coaches, and spectators speechless in Barcelona at the 2013 FINA World Championships.

Every athlete in the 10 km marathon swimming showcase gave it their all; each swimmer gave honor to the sport with their courageous effort. Zsofia Balazs finished 19th in 1:58:28.5, only an incredibly brief 9.3 seconds off the pace of gold medalist Poliana Okimoto. 25th place Celia Barrot of France was only 22 seconds behind the Brazilian victor in a nearly 2-hour race that was close from start to finish


9 seconds and 19 women…where the largest gap between swimmers between the gold medalist and 19th place was a mere 1.1 seconds. No race could have realistically closer.

Balazs made up a half-second on the leader on the final lap, but in an indication of the competitiveness of these 53 women, she dropped four positions in the close pack. “That was probably one of the hardest 10K’s I’ve done,” said Canadian Balazs. “It’s one of the ones that I’m most proud of also. Everyone stayed together the entire time. It was just fight, fight, fight, none of the girls would give up and the pack never spread out.”

Balazs said she looked to her teammate Richard Weinberger as inspiration for her efforts. Weinberger battled back into medal contention in Monday’s men’s 10 km despite losing time to repeat a turn after missing a buoy. “Seeing Richard yesterday, he just never gave up. I went into the race just saying that if he could do it, then I better not give up.”

Not one of these competitors will ever forget this race.

The most memorable race of 2013 was nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year. Its nomination reads, “9 seconds separated the top 19 swimmers in the women’s 10 km marathon swimming race at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. And many of the rest of the 51-swimmer field were not that far behind. The pace was blistering; the competition was fierce; it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting races in the annals of elite open water swimming. For nearly 2 hours, the world’s fastest open water swimmers gave it everything they had…only to follow in the wake of Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha. For participating in a race that could not be realistically closer, for representing themselves, their countries, and their sport courageously well, the collective effort of the women in the World’s 10K World Championship race is a worthy nominee for the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

The results show how close and how competitive these women were in one of the most competitive races, top to bottom, in FINA open water swimming history:

1. Poliana Okimoto (BRA) 1:58:19.2
2. Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) 1:58:19.5
3. Angela Maurer (GER) 1:58:20.2
4. Kalliopi Araouzou (GRE) 1:58:21.2
5. Anna Olasz (HUN) 1:58:22.4
6. Ophelie Aspord (FRA) 1:58:23.2
7. Yanqiao Fang (CHN) 1:58:23.2
8. Rebecca Mann (USA) 1:58:23.4
9. Éva Risztov (HUN) 1:58:23.4
10. Christine Jennings (USA) 1:58:23.6
11. Elizaveta Gorshkova (RUS) 1:58:24.3
12. Martina Grimaldi (ITA) 1:58:24.9
13. Yumi Kida (JPN) 1:58:25.8
14. Keri-Anne Payne (GBR) 1:58:25.8
15. Yurema Requena Juarez (ESP) 1:58:26.4
16. Svenja Theresa Zihsler (GER) 1:58:25.8
17. Erika Villaécija García (ESP) 1:58:27.8
18. Olga Beresnyeva (UKR) 1:58:27.9
19. Zsofia Balazs (CAN) 1:58:28.5
20. Melissa Gorman (AUS) 1:58:30.9
21. Marianna Lymperta (GRE) 1:58:33.0
22. Lizeth Rueda Santos (MEX) 1:58:36.6
23. Cara Baker (NZL) 1:58:38.5
24. Vicenia Navarro (VEN) 1:58:38.5
25. Celia Barrot (FRA) 1:58:41.8
26. Yu Shi (CHN) 1:58:43.8
27. Florencia Mazzei Villegas (ARG) 1:58:43.9
28. Silvie Rybářová (CZE) 1:58:55.3
29. Heidi Gan (MAS) 1:59:01.4
30. Chelsea Gubecka (AUS) 1:59:16.3
31. Rachele Bruni (ITA) 2:00:03.2
32. Paola Perez (VEN) 2:00:36.8
33. Danielle Huskisson (GBR) 2:01:31.5
34. Emma Robinson (NZL) 2:01:47.6
35. Nadine Williams (CAN) 2:01:50.4
36. Julia Lucila Arino (ARG) 2:02:37.8
37. Barbora Picková (CZE) 2:04:02.8
38. Nataly Rosalia Caldas Calle (ECU) 2:04:28.8
39. Alexandra Sokolova (RUS) 2:04:45.3
40. Valerie Gruest (GUA) 2:04:45.3
41. Angélica André (POR) 2:04:45.4
42. Laila El Basiouny (EGY) 2:04:45.4
43. Melissa Villaseñor Reyes (MEX) 2:05:21.1
44. Xeniya Romanchuk (KAZ) 2:05:21.1
45. Mahina Valdivia Dannenberg (CHI) 2:13:54.9
46. Clarice Le Roux (RSA) 2:15:35.7
47. Fiona On Yi Chan (HKG) 2:17:39.6
48. Mariya Ivanova (KAZ) 2:19:02.6
49. Hannah Hang Fung Li (HKG) 2:25:44.5
Risa Andriani Permana (INA) OTL
Poorva Kiran Shetye (IND) OTL
Michelle Weber (RSA) DNS
Karla Šitić (CRO) DNS

The nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year are always a group of individuals with exceptionally inspirational exploits, histories and lifestyles. This year presents an especially accomplished field of individuals including the entire field of the Women’s 10K Marathon Swimming Championship:

1. BCT Gdynia Marathon, Prizing the Pros (Poland)
2. Bering Strait Swim, Crossing from Asia to America (International)
3. Emily Brunemann, FINA World Cup Winner (U.S.A.)
4. Héctor Ramírez Ballesteros, Battling Butterfly From Spain to Gibraltar (Spain)
5. Ka’iwi Channel Swim, Making the Most of Molokai (Hawaii)
6. Mateusz Sawrymowicz, The Polish Tiburon (Poland)
7. Melissa Cunningham, Every Stroke Counts (Australia)
8. Mohamed Marouf, Energizing Egypt (Egypt)
9. Ned Denison, 9 Swims Around The World (Ireland)
10. Night Train Swimmers, California Coastal Cruising (U.S.A.)
11. Richard Weinberger, Chasing Gold (Canada)
12. Swim4Good, Strait of Gibraltar Charity Crossing (Mexico)
13. Sylvain Estadieu, Flying Frenchman (France)
14. Wendy Trehiou, Two-way Toughness (Jersey)
15. Women’s 10K World Championship, Pack Finishing Fast (International)

Online voting takes place here.

Photos courtesy of Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol. Race results and summary are posted here.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association