Doha-Marc-Antoine Olivier (FRA) and Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) were the winners in the season-opening 10km FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series 2021 Doha (QAT), held at Katara Beach on March 13. It was the first FINA competition in the discipline, since the disruption of the sport activities one year ago, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olympic bronze medallist Olivier took 1h52m02s4 to bag his second consecutive title in the Qatari capital, while five-time world champion Cunha edged Océane Cassignol (FRA) in a photo finish, clocking 2h01m30s3 to regain her Doha title after the 2019 triumph.
In the men’s race – the final event of the day starting at 2pm – 2019 FINA World Championships gold medallist (5km) Kristof Rasovszky (HUN) was ahead in the first two laps before Olivier accelerated for the victory.
Rasovszky finished second with a time of 1h52m05s5 while Olympic and world champion (in the pool) Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) completed the race in 1h52m07s9 for a bronze medal.
Olivier, 24, considered his victory in the season-opening race important:
“It was a difficult race because of high waves and I am so happy to win here again. I started slowly and recovered the pace in the last three laps, as I followed the last year’s plan, which was successful,” he said.
“This first meet was so important because it is an Olympic year and my win here is crucial,” Olivier added.
Earlier, in the women’s race kicking off at 9am, Cunha and Cassignol were neck to neck as there was not even a second gap between the two athletes throughout the contest.
However – Cunha, also a silver medallist in Doha last year – managed to keep her slim lead over the French during all the five laps for her second gold medal in Doha.
Cassignol finished the race in 2h01m30s8 for a second place, with Lea Boy (GER) clinching the bronze medal with a time of 2h01m31s9.
Brazilian star Cunha was elated with her close victory in Doha that marked the return of Marathon Series after over a year.
“The level of the race, with so many athletes who are preparing for the Olympics, was very tough. There was a lot of wind but I like swimming in these conditions. These conditions make the race tougher for every contender,” Cunha confessed.
On the return of World Series, the 28-year-old said: “I want to thank Qatar for organising the race. It is very exciting to come back here and compete in the World Series. During quarantine, we had more time to train. It is nice to come here and put that to practice.”
Last year’s winner in Doha, Leonie Beck (GER) missed out a medal after touching the finish-line in 2h01m32s8, claiming fourth position.
Rio 2016 silver medallist Rachele Bruni (ITA) and European champion Arianna Bridi (ITA) claimed the next two spots with times of 2h01m33s2 and 2h01m34s4 respectively.
A total of 35 athletes finished the women’s race.
Just over a year ago Doha played host to the first and only FINA Marathon Swim World Series event of the year. In 2021, with strict COVID restrictions in place for all teams, staff and officials, both the government and organisers have done everything possible to ensure a world class and safe event could take place.
Doha’s impressive high rise buildings line the waterfront promenade with the sandy beach of Katara once again the setting for this 10km Marathon Swim event held with increasingly windy conditions throughout the day with 21-degree C water temperature in this 2km loop/5 lap course.
Mr. Husain Al Musallam, FINA First Vice-President awarded medals to athletes, while Qatar Swimming Association (QSA) President Mr. Khaleel Al-Jabir and Secretary General Mr. Talal Mohammed Al Darwish also attended the medal ceremonies.
QSA, which will host the Doha 2023 FINA World Championships, organised the event by adhering to all COVID-19 protocols advised by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), and also to the specific FINA guidelines for open water swimming.
Source: Qatar Olympic Committee