World Champions Dominate The Bell Buoy Challenge

World Champions Dominate The Bell Buoy Challenge

9-time world marathon swimming champion Petar Stoychev of Bulgaria took a roundabout course to capture his second victory in two days.

Peter won the Nelson Mandela Bay Bell Buoy Challenge under cold and choppy conditions at the MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival in Port Elizabeth, South Africa today.

Petar finished the 7K out-and-back course in 1:33:47, comfortably outswimming Durban local Luke Nisbet (1:34:42) and Pretoria’s Tyron Venter (1:38:32).

Like Petar, Australia’s world champion Melissa Gorman took time off from her appreciation of the sights, sounds and flavors of South Africa to comfortably win the women’s race in 1:41:00 over New Zealand’s Brenda Russell (1:48:58) and Port Elizabeth local Rebecca Newman (1:49:30), by pushing her pace at the start by keeping up with the leading men.

In a mix-up, Petar misinterpreted the instructions and passed the beacons at the start on the wrong side. After being redirected on the proper course, he had essentially given all his competitors over a 100-meter lead. But panic is not his teammate and the 33-year-old champion proved his mettle and endurance by reeling in the rest of the field one by one. By the halfway point at the bell buoy, Petar had climbed to seventh position, but Tyron was still comfortably leading.

Petar caught Tyron, the South African 25K champion, just before the last part of the race and never looked back in the rough conditions. Petar calmly explained, “I was disadvantaged by maybe a minute or two due to the confusion. I had to push really hard to catch the first swimmers, really hard.” The large ocean swells certainly did not help, but as Petar knows well, simply part of open water swimming. “Sometimes, I couldn’t even see the way. I just kept on repeating to myself that I must keep pushing, pushing – that I must win this race.” And he looks to return next year if possible. “If the organizers invite me, I’ll be back. Yes, of course,” said a smiling Petar.

Second-place Luke said, “It was the farthest that I’ve ever raced, so I’m happy with second. Going out was nice with the wind at our backs and with the runners. I tried to conserve energy for the second half.” Tyron described his strategy, “I pushed the pace from the start to make everyone uncomfortable,” which worked until Petar came roaring back. “Luke’s background in surf lifesaving certainly gave him an advantage today, in these conditions. The last half was probably the toughest conditions I’ve ever encountered. I was really struggling to find a rhythm in the swells.”

Melissa, the ever-delightful Australian and world champion, got off to a fast start and was on Tyron’s shoulder at the quarter-distance hot spot, “I sprinted for the first hot spot and then settled into a good pace. It was really tough coming back and much colder than I’m used to.”

Tougher and colder yes, but the results were still the same for Petar and Melissa.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones
Steven Munatones