Lurz, Oberson win 5km open water races
Germany's Thomas Lurz won the men's five-kilometre race in the open water world championships Friday in China by less than a second over Greece's Spyros Gianniotis, reversing the result of the 10-kilometre race earlier in the week.
Switzerland's Swann Oberson, who has been swimming in international competitions for only a year, won the women's five-kilometre race.
Lurz finished in 56 minutes 16.6 seconds, and Gianniotis in 56.17.4. Evgeny Drattsev of Russia was third in 56.18.5.
Victoria's Richard Weinberger was the top Canadian, finishing 17th with a time of 56:33. Aimeson King of Oakville, Ont., was 31st with a time of 59:09.3.
Weinberger had a strong finish passing 10 swimmers in the last 300 metres.
"This was the most physical race so far," said Weinberger, who qualified to compete at an Olympic test event in London later this season. "There was a lot of people and a lot of energy. At some points in the race it was very crowded and I couldn't get myself positioned properly to get top-10. I'm still learning how to manoeuvre myself through a crowd of swimmers and today was very challenging."
Lurz passed the Greek swimmer late in the race.
"It was my strategy to leave it to the end," Lurz said. "But I was only sure that I won when I touched the finish board."
Gianniotis said he knew Lurz was getting close.
"The last few hundred meters, I was in the lead and I knew Thomas was behind," Gianniotis said. "He began to fight back, and I just pushed ahead, thinking I was ahead and I had nothing or no one to lose. It's very, very hard. He was very, very clever."
On Wednesday in the 10-kilometre race, Gianniotis passed Lurz near the finish to take gold, relegating Lurz to silver.
It was also the second medal for Lurz — he won a bronze as part of the German team in the five-kilometre team event Thursday.
Oberson edged Aurelie Muller of France and American Ashley Twichell in a close finish for the gold medal. A half-second separated the podium finishers — Oberson finished in 1:39.7, Muller took silver in 1:00.40.1 and Twichell was third in 1:00.40.2.
Canada had two swimmers in the women's competition. Toronto's Zsofi Balazs finished 26th with a time of 1:01:39, while Nadine Williams of Sherwood Park, Alta., finished 29th in 1:02:06.8.
The top 10 finishers were separated by only eight seconds.
It was the second medal for Twichell in two days. She was part of the American three-person team that won the five-kilometre team event Thursday.
Oberson's strategy of letting others take the lead, similar to Lurz's actions, paid off when she came from behind for the win.
"I know that being in the lead is not very good in open water, and I was very good in the last 1,000 metres," Oberson said. "So I just tried to stay in the top 10 over the whole race."
She said she trains five hours a day — "the swimming pool is my second house."