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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Olga Kozydub U-Turns To Win Traversèe In Magog

It was a race of survival today at the Traversèe international du lac Memphrèmagog in Quèbec, Canada today. With winds and whitecaps, the race conditions punished the 25 athletes who started. It was relentlessly difficult as the swimmers started into oncoming turbulence that never let up. And it was the women never let up on each other.

Richard Weinberger, Simole Ercoli, Alexander Studzinski, Joanes Hedel, Xavier Desharnais, Damian Blaum, and Tomi Stefanovski were vying for the top prize.

But it was a small, quick-thinking blonde from Russia who ended up on top of the women's heap.

It was a day that whomever finished could be called a winner. But the race is a professional competition and while Mother Nature frowned down upon the athletes, it was clear the women thrived under the conditions.

After 32 km, the lead pack had established a comfortable lead. At the last marker buoy 2 km from the finish, Silvie Rybarova, Martina Grimaldi, Celia Barrot, and Olga Kozydub were bunched up with their male colleagues Stefanovski and Studzinski in the mix. The other men had all fallen by the wayside during the day-long rough conditions that saw torrential rainfall and strong winds put a major damper on the swimmers’ plans.

As the sextet of athletes came barreling down the final 500 meters, it was anyone’s race to win. With 200 meters to go, Olympians Grimaldi and Rybarova hada distinct edge, but Rybarova and Kozydub were right behind in the second tier. 42-year-old Stefanovski was sandwiched between the top women with a decreasing glimmer of hope to catch the front-running Grimaldi and Rybarova.

150 meters, 100 meters, 75 meters, it was still a race up for grabs.

As the pack neared the finish chute, it was clear that the climax was going to be a photo finish. But in the confusion and whitewater, Grimaldi led the field on the outside of the finish chute buoys. The uncharacteristic mistake was shocking to those that witnessed the finish. Screams and yells by coaches and officials followed. With less than 25 meters to go, the pack suddenly realized its error. Stefanovski and Kozydub screeched to a halt, their head on swivels, and immediately U-turned back around the chute buoys. As the rules stipulate, the swimmers must all finish within the chute, and Stefanovski and Kozydub’s quick-thinking was the deciding factor.

As Stefanovski and Kozydub took a beeline down the chute, it was too late for Grimaldi, Rybarova or Studzinski to catch the pair. Kozydub edged Stefanovski to became the finish third overall in the 2013 Traversèe international du lac Memphrèmagog behind overall winner Joanes Hedel of France and runner-up Xavier Desharnais of Canada.

At 5 hours, I crashed,” said Stefanovski. “I knew it would hurt. It was only a matter of time. It was a tough race.”

“It was bad, very difficult,” agreed Blaum.

Truer words were never said.

The official results:

1. Olga Kozydub (Russia) 7:37:27
2. Silvie Rybarova (Czech Republic) 7:37:29
3. Martina Grimaldi (Italy) 7:37:30
4. Celia Barrot (France) 7:37:31
5. Karla Šitić (Croatia) 7:47:35
6. Pilar Geijo (Argentina) 7:50:20
7. Esther Nuñez Morera (Spain) 8:12:15
8. Lexie Kelly (USA) 8:51:51
Mallory Mead (USA), DNF
Rita Vanessa Garcia (Argentina), DNF
Noelia Petti (Argentine), OTL

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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