South Africa’s open water swimmers will have to swim in the last Olympic qualifier in Portugal next year to make it to the 2012 Olympic Games.
The women’s 10 K event was won by former South African and Midmar Mile star Keri-Anne Payne in a time of 2hrs 01 min 58 sec to earn a gold medal for Britain.
Payne led from start to finish, duplicating her title from the previous World Championships in Rome two years ago.
The victory saw Payne, who was born in Johannesburg, become the first British athlete to qualify for next year’s London Olympic Games.
A part-time student journalist, Payne is chasing two more medals after she qualified for the 1500m freestyle and 4x200m relay.
Back to the women’s 10km event, Italian Martina Grimaldi was second in 2:02.01 with Marianna Lymperta of Greece third in 2:02.12.
Natalie Du Toit, one of the world’s celebrated swimmers, was 6min 29 sec off Payne in 39th place after clocking 2:08.27.
Another South African who competed in the event was Jessica Roux, the current Steers Marina Mile champion who came 45th in her first major race in 2:16.34.
A total of 50 swimmers completed the race in hot and humid conditions, with five of them withdrawing. One swimmer was disqualified for punching.
Chad Ho and Troyden Prinsloo finished in 20th and 36th respectively in the men’s 10km event of the FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships.
The pace was fast early on with British swimmer Daniel Fogg leading for the first three laps chased by Ho, who was impressive in his start.
In the hot and humid conditions, both dropped off on the last kilometer as those who had played the waiting game on tactics took over and never looked back.
Ho settled for position 20, 33sec off the winner Spyros Gianniotis of Greece while Prinsloo finished in 36th place in 1:58.48 – but learning a lot among these top Open Water swimmers in his debut international event and only his third 10km race.
There was plenty of excitement as the older men produced the finish required to take the medals in the men’s 10km event.
While their younger competitors set the pace for almost 8kms, it was the experienced Gianniotis who broke away from the pack together with Germany’s Thomas Lurz and Sergey Bolshakov of Russia on the final kilometer.
Gianniotis won the event in 1:54.24 ahead of Lurz in 1:54.27 and Balshakov in 1:54.31.