California surfer wins 10K open water world title at Kazan
KAZAN, Russia (AP) After biding his time, Jordan Wilimovsky made a clean break from the collection of thrashing arms and legs. He surged into the lead and was on his way to Rio de Janeiro.
The 20-year-old swimmer cruised to a 12.1-second victory in the 10-kilometer open water race at the world championships Monday, becoming one of 10 men to qualify for next year's Olympics.
''It was super cool,'' said Wilimovsky, a surfer in his hometown of Malibu, California, who started swimming at the relatively late age of 10 in an effort to become a junior beach lifeguard.
He powered from the back of the lead pack on the third lap and finished in 1 hour, 49 minutes, 48.2 seconds. He is the first American man to win the 10K at worlds since 2005.
Wilimovsky led the last three kilometers over the Kazanka River course under ideal conditions. There was little wind and the 70-degree F (21 C) water was flat on a 73-degree F (22 C) day with puffy clouds dotting blue skies.
''My strategy was to hang back for the first five kilometers, build up at the last five kilometers and have enough at the end to hopefully finish fast,'' said Wilimovsky, whose power belies his 5-foot-9 stature that makes him shorter than many of his rivals.
Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands won the silver medal in 1:50:00.3. Two-time 10K world champion Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece took bronze in 1:50:00.7 to earn his fifth Olympic berth at age 35.
In diving, China ruled again with two more victories and has now won all five events.
Xie Siyi won the men's 1-meter springboard with 485.50 points, easily outdistancing silver medalist Illya Kvasha of Ukraine, who totaled 449.05. Mike Hixon of Amherst, Massachusetts, earned bronze with 428.30.
In women's 10-meter synchro, Chen Ruolin and Liu Huixia led all five rounds to claim gold with 359.52 points. They received a total of three perfect 10s, including two on their second dive.
Canada's Meaghan Benfeito and Roseline Filion took silver with 339.99. North Korea earned its first diving medal in the 16-year history of the worlds, with Kim Un Hyang and Song Nam Hyang taking the bronze at 325.26.
Russia won the synchro team tech final, its third gold in four events in synchronized swimming. China finished second and Japan third.
Olympic 10K champion Ous Mellouli of Tunisia was in the lead pack going into the last lap, but faded to 23rd. Mellouli, who finished in 1:50:50.2, faces a trip to Portugal next May for another chance at qualifying for Rio de Janeiro.
Weertman said navigating the rectangular course near the white-walled Kazan Kremlin was difficult because of its sprawling size.
''The group went a little bit all in waves, so everybody was swimming against each other but that makes it a little bit more fun for us,'' he said. ''At the end he (Wilimovsky) was just going crazy. I tried to follow him. I got pretty close but not close enough and I'm pretty happy with my second place.''
Gianniotis and Mellouli were far back during the first half of the race. After 5 kilometers, Mellouli was in the top 10, while the Greek swimmer was 30th. Gianniotis briefly moved into second place late in the race before winding up third.
Gianniotis took pride in seeing the Greek flag raised at a time when his country has been plunged into economic crisis.
''Greece is in a really bad situation,'' he said. ''The last two or three weeks I tried to keep very focused. It was really hard. Today I swam for my country.''
The top 10 finishers qualified for the Olympics, including fourth-place Sean Ryan of Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was second behind Wilimovsky heading for the opposite side of the riverbank from the finish on the final circuit before touching fourth in 1:50:03.3.
He finished 50th in the 10K at worlds two years ago in Barcelona, Spain, and had yet to absorb the fact that he was bound for Brazil.
''That will probably take a week or two,'' Ryan said, laughing. ''It's just a dream come true.''
Jack Burnell of Britain was fifth, followed by Marc-Antoine Olivier of France, Simone Ruffini of Italy, Richard Weinberger of Canada, Allan Do Carmo of Brazil and Federico Vanelli of Italy.
Coming into the finish, Wilimovsky looked to his right and saw swimmers coming up and no one on his left.
''I climbed out for a couple of strokes and saw the orange finish chute and I was like, `I'm just going to kick for that as hard as I can,''' he said.
The chance to make the Olympics directly from Kazan drew a record 72 swimmers to the race, including Chad Ho of South Africa, who won the 5K title Saturday.
In men's 1-meter diving, Xie was never worse than second during the six-round final of the non-Olympic event.
''Everything went according to the plan,'' said Xie, who switched from 10-meter platform to springboard 1 1/2 years ago. ''The pressure was probably in the preliminary stages, not in the final.''
Hixon edged Jahir Marroquin Ocampo of Mexico by 0.95 points for the bronze after rallying from 10th place to earn his first medal at the senior international level. Hixon, who attends Indiana University, fumbled to be heard at the medalists' news conference.
''Obviously by my microphone skills I'm not here very often,'' he said.