Xin Xin Pulls Off Major Upset, Wins 10K FINA World Championship

Xin Xin Pulls Off Major Upset, Wins 10K FINA World Championship

Xin Xin Pulls Off Major Upset, Wins 10K FINA World Championship
Courtesy of FINA, Gwangju, South Korea.

Behind the globally known gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal and equally well-known Rachele Bruni, Aurélie Muller and Poliana Okimoto, the top Chinese open water swimmer Xin Xin quietly finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games 10 km marathon swim in Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

She has won a handful of FINA Marathon Swim World Series professional marathon swims in China and Canada, and often finished near the top of all the other international races she has competed in, including the 2016 Olympic 10 km Marathon Swimming Qualification Race in Portugal, but she has never finished first in a major international race.

2020 Olympians, podium finishers Haley Anderson (USA), Xin Xin (China), Rachele Bruni (Italy)
But today was a special day for the 22-year-old Chinese star-on-the-rise from Shandong.

It was a tough swim all around, especially as she had to touch over American Haley Anderson by less than a second, but she came through in style to qualify for her second Olympic 10K Marathon Swim as one of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics pre-race favorites.

The top ten finishers in today’s race at the 2019 FINA World Championships have qualified for next summer’s Olympic Games.  In addition to Xin and Anderson, Rachele Bruni of Italy, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil, Ashley Twichell of the USA, and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands all qualified for the 2020 Olympics as race prognosticators had predicted.

But, as expected, there were surprises and the unexpected.

Lara Grangeon of France qualified fourth, but her more renowned teammate Aurélie Muller finished 11th and is now out of the 2020 Olympic picture.  Kareena Lee made Australia proud with her 7th place finish, 3.3 seconds back from gold and two Germans – Finnia Wunram and Leonie Beck – now both have a shot of ascending to the 2020 Olympic podium.

The water was warm at 23.1°C and the race was clean with only two yellow cards issued. One post-race protest was officially issued by the French Swimming Federation, but it was not accepted by FINA.

Xin said in her post-race interview, “I am really excited for my first place today. My goal before this competition was to qualify for the Olympics. I believe that I can race better and better in the future. My strategy today was to relax and save energy in the first half, and to keep ‘clear in the mind’ and also to keep the confidence in myself.”

Anderson who qualified for her third straight Olympics was also ecstatic, “I am really happy with how I raced and I am excited to qualify for another Olympic Games. I can’t believe I qualified for my third Olympics. To get my hand on the touch pads in second is really awesome. I finally won a medal in the 10km at the world championships. I really learned a lot during the past two quads.

It was pretty stressful and brutal in the race today. It was a little cut-throat out there because everyone was trying to finish in the top ten.

I was trying to stay calm and confident. Coming down the last stretch was a pretty big pack and I tried to keep the best line possible to the finish and I found clear water. I wanted to avoid fighting with anyone as that isn’t good for either swimmer. I made up some ground on the leaders. It was always my goal to be on the podium here, it wasn’t just about finishing in the top 10 today.

I am really excited about how I finished, not just where I finished. This is a great ‘set up’ for me for the Olympics next summer. I want to earn another medal for the USA at next summer’s Olympics. I still have plenty of racing ahead of me this summer. I will be competing in the 400m, 800m and the 1500m freestyle events in Lima, Peru at the Pan American Games next month.”

Bruni had a déjà vu moment in the race, similar to her interaction with Aurélie Muller at the 2016 Olympics on the last stroke of the race, “I don’t know what happened to the French athlete who was swimming next to me but I was sure that I arrived ahead of her.

I was following my coach’s advice to take charge of a comfortable pace in the first half so that I would have the energy at the finish. I was able to remain calm and quiet for most of the race. This was my first medal in the world championships. I tried so hard in the final moments of the race because there were 10 or 15 swimmers arriving at the touch pad at same time.

For me today’s results are very important as I qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. My target is always to win a gold medal and that is the goal for Tokyo.”

Women’s Olympic 10 km Qualification Race Results:
1. Xin Xin (China) 1:54:47.20
2. Haley Anderson (USA) 1:54:48.10
3. Rachele Bruni (Italy) 1:54:49.90
4. Lara Grangeon (France) 1:54:50.00
5. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil) 1:54:50.50
6. Ashley Twichell (USA) 1:54:50.50
7. Kareena Lee (Australia) 1:54:50.50
8. Finnia Wunram (Germany) 1:54:50.70
9. Leonie Beck (Germany) 1:54:51.00
10. Sharon van Rouwendaal (Netherlands) 1:54:51.10
11. Aurélie Muller (France) 1:54:51.20
12. Viviane Jungblut (Brazil) 1:54:51.90
13. Arianna Bridi (Italy) 1:54:52.00
14. Fuwei Dong (China) 1:54:56.70
15. Esmee Vermeulen (Netherlands) 1:54:58.40
16. Anna Olasz (Hungary) 1:54:58.70
17. Alice Dearing (Great Britain) 1:55:05.90
18. Samantha Arévalo (Ecuador) 1:55:22.80
19. Angelica Andre (Portugal) 1:55:23.40
20. Anastasiia Krapivina (Russia) 1:55:24.90
21. Mariia Novikova (Russia) 1:55:26.00
22. Yumi Kida (Japan) 1:55:26.70
23. Reka Rohacs (Hungary) 1:55:26.70
24. Paula Ruiz (Spain) 1:55:31.20
25. Danielle Huskisson (Great Britain) 1:55:31.50
26. Maria Alejandra Bramont-Arias (Peru) 1:55:33.80
27. Špela Perše (Slovenia) 1:55:44.40
28. Eva Fabian (Israel) 1:55:44.80
29. Chelsea Gubecka (Australia) 1:55:45.20
30. Minami Niikura (Japan) 1:55:46.80
31. Michelle Weber (South Africa) 1:56:25.80
32. Julia Lucila Arino (Argentina) 1:56:32.20
33. Maria Vilas (Spain) 1:57:34.40
34. Alena Benesova (Czech Republic) 1:57:48.60
35. Kate Farley Sanderson (Canada) 2:00:23.90
36. Krystyna Panchishko (Ukraine) 2:00:28.60
37. Kalliopi Araouzou (Greece) 2:00:30.30
38. Eden Girloanta (Israel) 2:00:34.60
39. Tsz Yin Nip (Hong Kong) 2:01:14.60
40. Lenka Šterbova (Czech Republic) 2:01:15.50
41. Martha Sandoval (Mexico) 2:01:17.50
42. Paola Perez (Venezuela) 2:01:29.70
43. Martha Ruth Aguilar Ortega (Mexico) 2:01:42.10
44. Nataly Caldas Calle (Ecuador) 2:02:03.50
45. Chantel Lily Jeffrey (Canada) 2:02:19.90
46. Robyn Kinghorn (South Africa) 2:03:05.10
47. Justyna Dorota Bruska (Poland) 2:03:28.40
48. Sandy Atef (Egypt) 2:07:37.80
49. Liliana Hernandez (Venezuela) 2:07:38.40
50. Karolina Balazikova (Slovakia) 2:07:38.70
51. Mariya Fedotova (Kazakhstan) 2:07:42.50
52. Cho Ying Wong (Hong Kong) 2:07:43.40
53. Dayoun Lim (Korea) 2:07:50.90
54. Pimpun Choopong (Thailand) 2:08:16.60
55. Haeun Jung (Korea) 2:09:36.80
56. Yanci Vanegas (Guatemala)2:11:59.10
57. Famita Flores (Estonia) 2:12:00.60
58. Katawan Teeka (Thailand) 2:17:27.00
59. Hita Nayak (India) 2:17:32.30
60. Sofie Frichot (Seychelles) 2:18:07.70
61. Nikitha Setru Venugopal (India) 2:20:09.50
62. Camila Mercado (Bolivia) 2:23:09.70
63. Genesis Rojas (Costa Rica) 2:23:29.40
64. Merle Liivand (Estonia) 2:23:30.80

Watch the men’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualifier race live here on Tuesday on FINAtv.

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Steven Munatones