Will It Be Pool Sharks And Marathon Bait?
Apr 30, 2008
Craig Lord

... Or will the open water specialists bite back as the likes of Grant Hackett and David Davies challenge for places in the inaugural 10km marathon race in Beijing at World Championships in Seville from Saturday

The 5th FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships (those are the ones that take place in between the World Championships alongside the four other FINA disciplines) get underway this Saturday for five days (May 3-8) in the beautiful Spanish city of Seville.

Here is the drop at last, the confirmation as to whether the big white sharks of the pool are a fit force to take on the specialist marathon swimmers in their element. Grant Hackett (AUS) and David Davies (GBR), 1,500m champion and bronze medallist from Athens 2004, are the biggest pool fish to watch in the 10km men's race as they take on established champions of open water, Petar Stoychev (BUL), world record holder across the English Channel, Mohamed El-Zanaty (EGY) Russians Evgeny Drattsev and Vladimir Dyatchin, Chip Petterson and Mark Warkentin (both USA), Ky Hurst (AUS), Alan Bircher (GBR), Italians Simone Ercoli and Valerio Cleri, and Christian Hein (GER), also a good 1,500m man in the pool.

One of the big danger men in the shoal is Hein's teammate, Thomas Lurz, a hybrid of pool and open-water, proven in both environments and doubtless at home in the rowing-lake-style conditions of Seville and indeed Beijing. Lurz did not race in pool trials in Germany this month, his focus clear. Other hybrids include the two Igors, Snitko and Chervynskiy, of Ukraine.

Similarly the women's event contains dangerous hybrids such as the two Brits already on their pool team for Beijing, Stockport training partners Cassandra Patten and Keri-Anne Payne, with whom pool coach and the head coach to GBR open water Sean Kelly is doing a tremendous job. Patten has become a sub 8:30 800m freestyler since she took silver at Melbourne 2007 over 10km a hand behind the woman who lines up as favourite in Seville, multiple world open water champion Larisa Ilchenko (RUS).

From Australia, Melissa Gorman also makes the leap from the pool. From the open water specialists, watch for Poliana Okimoto, of Brazil, former world and European medal winner Rita Kovacs (HUN), now well into her 30s, Jana Pechanova (CZE), while those who will challlenge hard include German pair and former world champion Britta Kamrau-Corestein and Angela Maurer.

Interesting to see how the home Olympic nation fares, with Li Xue and Fang Yanqiao in the race, French pair Aurelie Muller and Cathy Dietrich could threaten as could Russian number two Ksenia Popova and Australian Brooke Fletcher. And then there's Natalie Du Toit (RSA), who bridges the worlds of able-bodied and disabilities but whose self-image as nothing but a full-flown athlete is a shining star of inspiration for all sectors of the sports community and beyond.

The championships also feature 5km and 25km races for men and women. Fina, meantime, announced that all anti-doping tests from Manchester 2008 returned negative.