Swim championships: Brazilians Okimoto, Cunha place 1-2 in 10K race
Barcelona, Spain • Looking ahead to an Olympics in their home country, Brazilians Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha went 1-2 in the 10-kilometer race at the swimming world championships Tuesday, a rough-and-tumble event that two-time winner Keri-Anne Payne described as "absolute carnage."
Okimoto and Cunha pulled away from the pack after making the final turn on the palm tree-lined course set up in Barcelona's dazzling harbor. Okimoto, who narrowly lost her first event of the championships to American Haley Anderson, reached up to slap the timing device just .3 seconds ahead of her countrywoman.
Germany's Angela Maurer took third, one second behind the winner after a race that took nearly two hours to complete.
"I'm so excited," Okimoto said. "I have got my second medal in these world championships, and for this reason I'm really happy. I felt really strong during the whole race and finally I got this medal. It's really important to me."
The performance at these worlds is also important to the Brazilians, who are looking to build momentum for a strong showing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Okimoto and Cunha have been on the podium in the first two women's events, taking silver and bronze in the 5K.
"There are no secrets," Okimoto said through a translator. "We've got support now from our sponsors and our federation, so all we have to do is keep training and training for 2016."
The winning time was 1 hour, 58 minutes, 19.2 seconds on a day when the air temperature rose into the mid-80s but the water measured about 78 degrees before the start, not of concern for a sport still dealing with the fallout from American Fran Crippen's death nearly three years ago in a race held in sweltering Middle East conditions.
Cunha missed qualifying for the London Olympics, where the only open-water event is at the 10K distance.
"In just two years, I have improved a lot," she said. "Today I'm the second-best swimmer in the world, just behind another Brazilian athlete."