BARCELONA – Canada’s open water team achieved its goal of a top-12 finish in Thursday’s 5-kilometre team event at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.
The team of Philippe Guertin, Eric Hedlin and Zsofi Balazs crossed the finish line at Moll de la Fusta in 57:13.7, good for 12th in the race.
“It’s a hard race because we’re a new team,” said Balazs.
All three swimmers had to finish, with the team’s time based on the last person to cross the line. Balazs, who also swam the team event at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai, was the only Canadian with experience. She viewed the race as a learning experience for the team.
“It’s always really hard to figure out what works best,” said the 23-year-old Torontonian.
The 12th-place result earned Canada a point in the open water team championships trophy race. With 27 points overall, Canada sits in seventh place, two ahead of Australia.
“We got a point, that was the goal,” Guertin said.
The 22-year-old Montreal resident was the designated leader for the team.
“We were just trying to have the best line we could and just pull Zsofi as much as we were able to and push the pace at the end,” Guertin said. “It worked pretty good. We’re new at this and it’s Eric’s and my first team.”
Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson focused on the youth of the team.
“The ages of the team range from 20 to 23 years old so in relative terms it’s a young team,” Atkinson said. “They finished well up in the field, they were competitive, but it’s certainly another event within the open water schedule that Canada are going to be competing in in the future and aim to improve our position.
Chris Nelson, manager for the open water team, called the swimmers “pioneers for this event in Canada.
“This is the second time anyone in our country has ever done it. Zsofi has done it twice and the other boys are both rookies, Nelson said. “The world has been doing this event, especially the European countries every year at their European championships. We’re here gathering a lot of information we’ll take back to make our team two years from now that much better.”
The final event on the open water schedule is set for Saturday when Guertin and Victoria’s Richard Weinberger swim the grueling 25-km marathon. Weinberger, who won Olympic bronze in the 10-km in 2012, has his sights set on a medal after finishing fifth in Monday’s 10-km.