Kristof Rasovszky Leads Another All-Europe 10km Podium At Worlds With Olivier & Pardoe
Hungarian open-water ace Kristof Rasovszky led the second all-Europe podium in the 10km finals at World titles in the choppy seas of Old Doha Port this morning, the day after Sharon van Rouwendaal‘s win in the women’s competition.
Frenchman Marc-Antoine Olivier took silver and Britain’s Hector Pardoe the bronze and a ticket to the Paris Olympics in a final that featured a European top-four, the experienced Rasovszky, Tokyo2020ne Olympic silver medallist in the marathon, keeping his rivals at bay after a battle in which his contention for gold was never in doubt.
With 400 metres to go, Rasovszky led a large leading group alongside Australia’s Nicholas Sloman and Italy’s Domenico Acerenza in a race in which Olympic and World champion Florian Wellbrock, in 29th 1mins 37.8 off the winning pace after staying in touch with leaders until the last lap, was among the big shots already qualified for Paris and taking the ‘intercalated’ championships of Doha in their training stride.
Rasovszky, World 5km champion in 2019, collected silver behind Wellbrock just six months ago last July in Fukuoka, the second of four World championships to be held in successive years as a result of Covid-contract catch-up in event scheduling.
Doha marks the first time in history that the World Aquatics Championships are being held in Olympic year, resulting in significant absenteeism in some events, most notably in pool racing that gets underway from Sunday for eight days.
Olivier and Pardoe harnessed their last reserves to will, wash and wave with a sharper edge than opponents on the way to the end pad in a scramble for honours that saw six swimmers sweep home within two seconds of the Brit’s bronze.
Logan Fontaine, Olivier’s teammate, took fourth ahead of Sloman, while the top 13 finishers among those not already qualified for action in Paris this July booked their place at the Games, their ticket reliant on selection by their respective nations. Sloman was joined in the top 10 by teammate Kyle Lee, making it a flush for Australia, with four out of a maximum four tickets to the Paris Olympics marathon.
Rasovszky will now head to the 5km race on Wednesday among favourites for the title, the double a feat achieved by Wellbrock in Fukuoka last year.
Federation Sagas In The Mix
Olivier qualified for his home Olympics today, having missed the Fukuoka 2023 World Championships after being suspended by the French Swimming Federation (FFN).
Olivier appealed the suspension but to no avail when it came to the first championship at which he might have booked his Paris 2024 ticket.
The FFN cited three incidents over the past couple years in which 26-year-old Olivier “acted inappropriately” toward French team staff. No details were given along with the note announcing the suspension. The trouble was said to have started at a World Cup in Abu Dhabi in December 2021, after which he was fined by an FFN disciplinary board.
At April’s 2023 Martinique Open, Olivier was warned again for “virulent remarks against the coach in front of organisers”. The same thing was alleged to have happened once more just two weeks later at the Open Water World Cup in Soma Bay, Egypt.
“The selection criteria for the French swimming teams are indeed based on the performances achieved, but also on the respect of values and principles of collective functioning,” the FFN wrote. “Recent incidents involving Marc-Antoine Olivier have unfortunately led us to make this decision.”
In addition, French technical director Julien Issoulie, noted at the time: “We hope it will make him click. He is really gifted, but we cannot accept everything. It’s not performance at any price. We can’t dust under the rug because it’s a medal chance.”
Whatever happened, this day it clicked. Olivier’s silver should get him to Paris and a shot at a bigger podium, at a home Olympics isn the Seine.
Pardoe’s success follows a whisker-thin miss at the World Cup in Madeira last December, when he missed the medals by 0.2sec. It also comes 13 years after Keri-Anne Payne won the women’s 10km title in Shanghai, the last medal on a global level for Britain in the marathon. He said:
“The emotions were quite high, following the path of redemption from Tokyo 2020 with the eye injury. I just wanted to secure the Olympic qualification, so to come out with a medal is even better. I was feeling great throughout the whole race, that last lap, I made it happen and followed my strategy perfectly. In Funchal in December, I just missed out on that podium by 0.2 seconds. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time, and I managed to get my hand on the wall first.
That’s a medal for GB that puts us on the map in marathon swimming. I went into Tokyo as a 20-year-old without much experience. The experience I’ve gained in the last three years will really set me up nicely to compete with the big boys in Paris. “Hector Pardoe – photo courtesy of TeamGB
Pardoe’s story, including sustaining an eye injury from an opponent that out him out of the the Tokyo Olympic marathon mid-swim in 2021, is fascinating on many levels. His story includes his journey from the Ellesmere Titans to France, his vegetarianism and advocacy … and his record-breaking zeal in waters most folk wouldn’t dream of dipping their toe in. There’s also the part in the story played by coach Alan Bircher, who was to have been the Britain open water head coach at Tokyo 2020ne before a devastating decision by England swim authorities that proved ill-founded and led to ‘quiet’ exoneration for the Titans coach and former international after some two years of limbo and being hung out to dry as all-but ‘unemployable’ given the nature of allegations that ought never to have led to events that included failures and woeful outcomes highlighted by the independent Weston report that forced a review and reform process still underway at Swim England.
There was much better news for Britain in open waters today in Doha, when Pardoe’s podium success was backed up by a 15th place overall finish but Britain and Loughborough teammate Tobias Robinson, who also gets a ticket to Paris, those top 15 places including swimmers, such as the new champion Rasovszky, who had already qualified for the Games.
With University of Bath’s Leah Crisp’s top 13 finish yesterday, Britain’s open-water crew, the men guided by Andi Manley and team at Loughborough, has secured three of a possible four marathon places at the Paris Olympic Games. For inspiration, the three swimmers may look back at the dawn of Olympic 10km marathon swimming in 2008 and see the possibilities that can turn into realities: at the Beijing Games, Britain claimed two silver and a bronze, half of all the medals up for grabs, courtesy of David Davies, Kerin-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten, working with a team led by coach Kevin Renshaw, a man still guiding waves of swimmers from potential to Olympic pool in Britain.
The Ellesmere saga is yet to lead to the direct apology and reconciliation measures required to heal the harm done in a torrid tale of the Titans (among other clubs and their families) and swim authorities that remain under scrutiny as a result of the issues raised by barrister Louis Weston in a report revealed in The Times by this journalist.