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a concerted eff ort from Gorman, who put in a huge burst at the start of the lap, gaining a 10-metre lead on the rest of the fi eld. But it was short-lived, with the leading pack hunting her down within 500 metres, and pushing her back into eighth place. Gorman never regained the lead. Lap four was the make-or-break 1.7km section of the race, with


an expectant home nation hoping Payne could triumph, just as she had at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. Hopes were especially high, because Payne entered the race as the clear favourite. Up to lap four, she had been continually vying for the lead, and heading into the feeding station she was now the clear leader. Mark Perry was acting team manager for the race, and was positioned at the far end of the pontoon. As Payne reached for her bot le from a specially made feeding pole, she missed it, but rather than carrying on and accepting she would not feed on that lap, she stopped and grasped again for the bot le. This time Payne managed to get a mouthful, but unfortunately this second of deliberation cost her dear, as she was forced back into eighth place. However, Payne clawed her way back to fi ſt h position by the start of lap fi ve, the penultimate lap. With just over 3km to go, Risztov picked up the pace, which spread the fi eld, resulting in a fi ve-strong lead pack consisting of Payne, Risztov, Maurer, Anderson and Martina Grimaldi (Italy), with the chasing pack lead by Jana Pechanová (Czech Republic) and Gorman. It had been clear to me from as early as the second lap, that Risztov was a strong contender for the gold medal, but now it was obvious she was swimming to win. She surged away, put ing fi ve metres of wash between her and the four others, who were now leſt to scrap for a podium fi nish. Risztov (pictured below right) retained the lead throughout laps


fi ve and six, maintaining an outstanding pace. Meanwhile, the gap between the leading pack and the rest of the fi eld opened up to a yawning 50 metres. Although the fi nal 600 metres saw Anderson put in a valiant eff ort to overpower the Hungarian, it was too lit le, too late. Risztov took the gold in a time of 1:57:38.2, Anderson (1:57:38.6) won silver and Grimaldi (1.57.41) held off a disappointed Payne to win the bronze. Maurer was placed fi ſt h. The 10km men had watched this thrilling race unfold from


lakeside, and the next day it was their turn to take to the Serpentine – and I was excited to be back in the commentary boat. There was an air of anticipation before the race; no one could predict how it would end. A year ago, the main contenders would have been the gold and silver World Championship medalists, Spyridon Gianniotis (Greece) and the nine-time world champion Thomas Lurz (Germany). But there was a newcomer on the scene, in the form of Oussama Mellouli (Tunisia), who'd already won a bronze in the 1,500m pool event earlier in the week, and had won the second Olympic qualifi cation trial in Portugal a month before. From the fi rst 100 metres it was Mellouli who took charge of


the race. He looked comfortable in the lead, with a low stroke rate and virtually no leg kick, while the rest of the pack fought it out behind him. Early on, Great Britain's Daniel Fogg showed signs


RISZTOV RECEIVED NO YELLOW CARDS BUT MAINTAINED A FORCEFUL PRESENCE DURING THE RACE


Photo © Wei-Feng Xue 19


of swimming a great race, and lay in third place, behind Richard Weinberger (Canada) and Mellouli, aſt er the fi rst lap. Mellouli does not have a vast wealth of experience of open water swimming, but he manipulated the pack like a pro. He was clearly at ease with upping his pace at the drop of a swimming cap, a tactic he used to string out the pack. When he felt he had suffi ciently ruffl ed enough feathers, he rolled on to his back and proceeded to swim backstroke. It was impressive to watch; Mellouli was playing cat and mouse with the best open water swimmers in the world. However, at the end of the second lap it was Andreas Waschburger (Germany) who had taken the lead, with Mellouli slipping back to sixth and Fogg back in 13th. As with the women's race, it was the third lap where the swimmers tried to make early breaks. Weinberger took a convincing lead, which he held for the majority of the lap, entering the carnage of the feeding station with clear water behind him. Unlike the following fi ve swimmers, Weinberger decided not to feed, but instead of using this to his advantage and furthering his lead, he stopped and waited until Mellouli and Lurz had caught him up. I exchanged puzzled looks with my fellow commentators; none of us had ever seen anything like it – why had he passed up a golden opportunity to pull away? By the end of that lap Weinberger lay in sixth place. With two to go, Mellouli made his move, and it was to prove decisive. At the start of lap fi ve he was in third position, completing that lap in 18.34, but as we saw with Risztov the day before, his swimming style now changed. The lazy stroke was quickened and he brought in a six-beat leg kick, and with that he pulled away from the pack, who were leſt fl oundering in his wake. Lurz, Weinberger and Gianniotis had no answer, as Mellouli extended his lead. His splits between laps four and fi ve are unprecedented, dropping from 18.34 to 17.45. Swimming past the grandstand for the last time, Mellouli had a


four-second advantage over Lurz and Weinberger who were neck and neck. Gianniotis was trying in vain to pull back in to a medal position. Gold went to Mellouli in 1.49.55, silver was won by Lurz (1.49.58), while Richard Weinberger (1.50.3) bagged bronze. Fogg had a storming fi nish, moving up from 16th to fi nish fi ſt h. The world's eyes may no longer be on London, but fantastic memories remain. Medals were won and lost and dreams made and shat ered, and open water swimming played its part in making London 2012 one of the best ever Games. 


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