Dutch Ace Sharon Van Rouwendaal Reclaims World 10km Crown In Battle With De Valdes & André
Sharon Van Rouwendaal, the Dutch marathon ace and 2016 Olympic champion, reclaimed the 10km World title as open water events got underway at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha today.
Van Rouwendaal edged out Spain’s Maria de Valdes in a thrilling sprint finish with Angelica André, of Portugal, taking an historic bronze for Portugal.
Van Rouwendaal was always in the mix for gold but only had No1 next to her names at two timed stages in the two-hour tussle, early in the race and then again when she stopped the clock 0.1sec ahead of De Valdes in 1hour 57mins 26.8sec. André was just 1.3sec further adrift, closest to the podium Australia’s Moesha Johnson and Brazil’s 2020ne Olympic champion Ana Cunha.
Victory took the 30-year-old van Rouwendaal’s tally of world-championship podiums to seven since 2015 – and her 10km gold count to two, after her Budapest 2022 triumph.
On the sixth and final lap, Johnson held the lead ahead of van Rouwendaal and de Valdes and looked like she was set for gold but the last 500 metres of the race were decisive and the fight between the Dutch ace, de Valdes and André saw the Australian overhauled and locked out of the medals.
De Valdes, producing a breakthrough for Spain and the performance coaching team led by Sean Kelly had a slight edge with about 200 metres to go but van Rouwendaal, with a career in which she has major championship medals to her credit over 100 and 200 on backstroke and 400m and 800m on freestyle, refused to yield.
Stroke for stroke to the pad the two battled, with André (coached by a former teammate of mine, Zé Borges) chasing, Van Rouwendaal fuelled by the hunger in a fourth place finish at Fukuoka world titles last year.
There was a silver lining for Johnson, however: a ticket to Paris 2024. Doha is the last qualifying event and Australia still had a slot to fill, a goal that required a top 13 finish in Doha. The ranks of those outside the qualifying cut-off included some who have already booked their ticket to the Olympics and some who were seeking a place for self and country for the marathon in the Seine in August.
Outside the top 13 today but already Paris bound: World champion in 2023, Leonie Beck, of Germany, and the two who shared the podium with her that day in Fukuoka: Chelsea Gubecka, of Australia, and Katie Grimes, of the USA.
Great Britain, which took half the medals in the inaugural Olympic marathon at Beijing 2008, was among those nations fighting for a place in the Paris race. In 17th, Leah Crisp grabbed the ticket and will make her Olympic debut this summer (the top 13 slots do not included those like Van Rouwendaal already qualified).
The other racing for Britain, Amber Keegan, noted the drop and the soar of elite challenge in her post-race reaction:
Australia will have two in the Paris race, Gubecka and now Johnson. “It just hasn’t sunk in … that was such a hectic race, I was getting bashed out there … people on top on top of me and people under me, I just had to hold on towards the end,” Johnson said.
The event in Qatar is part of a cycle that includes four World Aquatics Championships in as many years, the Doha event a somewhat intercalated affair as the first such event ever to be held in Olympic year, absenteeism an obvious factor in play, particularly in pool events, which get underway next weekend.
Next stop for Van Rouwendaal: the 5km on Wednesday after silver just six months ago in Fukuoka.