BARCELONA – Montreal’s Philippe Guertin swam near the front of the pack all day on the way to a 9th-place finish in the men’s 25-km open water marathon Saturday at FINA World Championships in Barcelona.
The world championships rookie swam the intense race in 4:48:46.8, finishing just over a minute behind the front pack of eight. Thomas Lurz of Germany was the winner in 4:47:27.0, edging Belgium’s Brian Rycheman by 0.4 seconds.
“I felt good until the ninth lap. I made a couple gutsy moves and I think it paid off. I’m still not used to fighting in a pack for 25 km like that. It wasn’t easy but I’m getting there,” said the 22-year-old. “I gave it all I got. If I made mistakes I’ll learn from them. My coach will tell me but I have no regrets for this race and I’m looking forward to the future.”
Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson was proud of the young swimmer’s performance in his first worlds.
“Philippe Guertin performed exceptionally well. He was with the leading pack all the way through the race in his first 25-km,” Atkinson said. “To finish with a top-10 position in the 25-km is testament to him and his coach Claude St-Jean for the work that they’ve done to prepare him for the world championships.”
It was Canada’s third top-10 finish in men’s open water events, to go along with Eric Hedlin’s silver medal in the 5-km and Richard Weinberger’s fifth place in the 10-km.
“(My teammates) pushed me a lot, especially to see that they had a lot of attention from it and I wanted to prove that I’m able to do it,” Guertin said. “I didn’t get a medal unfortunately but in my first 25-km, I can’t ask for much better.”
Guertin’s swim earned Canada points in the overall open water championships standings. Canada finished tied with France for seventh, with Brazil on top ahead of Germany and the U.S.
“To have three different guys all in top 10 places in the three men’s individual events is an excellent performance from a young team who have got many years ahead of them in this sport,” Atkinson said.
Weinberger, the Olympic bronze medallist in the 10-km, found the 25-km distance difficult, finishing 26th in 5:02:32.6. On the women’s side, Nadine Williams of Sherwood Park, Alta., finished 17th in 5:42:17.9.
Williams was coming off a 10-km race that saw both her and Zsofi Balazs of Toronto improve on their positions from the 2011 worlds. Atkinson said every swimmer on the young team can take away something positive as Canada builds towards the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“The oldest athlete is 23 years old, so they’ve got a really good core for the next three years to move on towards Rio,” Atkinson said.
Action shifts to the pool Sunday, with Victoria’s Ryan Cochrane and Katerine Savard of Pont-Rouge, Que., among Canada’s top swimmers. Sportsnet will be televising a highlights show each night of the eight-day meet. For further information visit www.swimming.ca or www.bcn2013.com