Beijing-Held in the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park, about an hour from Beijing, the inaugural 10 Open Water event got under way this morning. In front of a crowd of over 20,000, the race began swimming under sunny skies with flat water in what is the world's biggest pool; a giant rectangular basin with 6.35 million square metres of water surface area.
Larisa Ilchenko (RUS) was the race favourite heading into today. She has won 5 straight 5KM and 3 straight 10 KM World Titles, including this year's race in Seville. The flat water venue was perfect for her race strategy, which she again did to perfection. While teammates Cassandra Patten (GBR) and Keri-Anne Payne (GBR) took the lead and swam a well paced race together, with 5 minutes to go, the Brazilian duo of Ana Cunha (BRA) and Poliana Okimoto (BRA) tried to go wide around the Brits, but that allowed Ilchenko to pass them. Then, like a coral snake, Ilchenko struck, unleashing her venon on the Brits with 2 minutes to go. Bam! She out-touched Payne for gold in 1:59.27.7 to 1:59.29.2.
Patten, a pool swimmer, was second to Ilchenko at Worlds last year, and 8th this week in the 800 free. She cut over in the final metres to block Angela Maurer (GER) and hold on for bronze in 1:59.31.0 to 1:59.31.9. Less than a second between them after a near 2 hour battle.
Like a peacock showing off it's colours, Ilchenko didn't even look tired as she walked from the basin, blowing kisses to the crowd. But it is British women's swimming that has a lot to be proud of. In a near sweep of the distance events, they walk away with gold and bronze in the 400, gold in the 800 and silver and bronze in the 10KM. They are now the standard for women's distance swimming.
Natalie du Toit (RSA), was 4th at Worlds this year and a fan favourite; she lost her half her leg in a moped accident in 2001. Since that time she has taken SWAD swimming by storm, winning 5 golds at the Paralympics in Athens, however she is here this week as a full able-bodied athlete and finished 16th in 2:00.49.9.