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Monday, December 17, 2012

A Golden Act Of Kindness In The Open Water

In a touching act of competitive camaraderie, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil showed her rivals that while she wants to win as much as they do, her heart is pure gold.

At the Queen of the Sea competition in Rio de Janeiro, Ana Marcela was one of the pre-race favorites along with American Ashley Twichell and fellow Brazilian Poliana Okimoto.

While Ana Marcela’s rivalry with Twichell has started to develop over the last few years when they first went head-to-head in the 5 km race at the 2011 World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, her rivalry vis-à-vis Okimoto had simmered in dozens of domestic and international races since they both barely missed out on a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics marathon swim.

As 8 women lined up on the grid to begin the Queen of the Sea race in Rio de Janeiro, it was clear each of the competitors had the eye of the tiger, especially for Ana Marcela and Okimoto.

With a nation-wide television audience dialed into the 4 km race on the Olympic 10km Marathon Swim course, the pressure was on the Brazilians to win the prestigious event. Earlier in the day, Brazil’s Corinthians beat England’s Chelsea 1-0 in the final of FIFA Club World Cup in fútbol, so the ambiance on Copacabana Beach was electric. Expectations were raised to keep the Brazilian winning streak alive, whether it was on a fútbol pitch or in the Atlantic Ocean.

But Twichell pulled away from both Ana Marcela and Okimoto in convincing fashion on the fourth loop of five and held onto a comfortable victory. But the touching moment of athletic respect came soon after Ana Marcela crossed the finish line.

Each competitor wore a different colored swim cap for the made-for-television event by TV Globo. Ana Marcela’s cap was gold-colored. Twichell’s was blue.

Ana Marcela, breathing heavy with heavy lactic acid-filled legs and an even heavier heart, immediately walked over to Twichell and graciously handed her gold swim cap to the American victor. “You deserve this gold cap,” explained Ana Marcela with a characteristically wide smile and a sweet hug. “You swam great today.”

Champions, both.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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