ROBERVAL, Que. – Xavier Desharnais of Sherbrooke, Que., and Tomi Stefanovski of Macedonia tied for first place in the men’s 32 kilometre race this past weekend at the 60th Traversée du Lac-St-Jean, a stop on the FINA Grand Prix open water swimming circuit.
Both swimmers were clocked at seven hours and nine minutes and 08 seconds. It was a second consecutive victory for the 43-year-old Stefanovski at what is considered one of the toughest races in the world in open water swimming.
‘’During the race I couldn’t believe Tomi was still with me, he is super human,’’ said Desharnais, 24. ‘’Each year, he just seems to get stronger. It’s incredible for me to get the win. I followed my game plan and didn’t get destabilized by the conditions. Tomi forced me to drain every ounce of energy from myself.’’
It is the first time since 1973 that there are co-winners of the event and it’s the first time in 19 years a Canadian has took top spot. The co-winners were side-by-side almost the entire race and it took officials more than an hour to come to a conclusion both swimmers tapped the finish board at the same time.
‘’I knew at the end of the race he would sprint and it would be decided in the last 200 metres,’’ said Desharnais. ‘’I let him get too close before attacking again. That was probably my only error.’’
Philippe Guertin of St-Hubert, Que., was sixth in seven hours and 16 minutes.
‘’It was a tough race,’’ said Guertin. ‘’It was going well for a while but I made some bad tactical decisions. I decided to accelerate in order to gain the lead but I broke too early and suffered for the rest of the race.’’
Pilar Geijo of Argentina won the women’s race outright in seven hours and 19 minutes. Sabryna Lavoie of Roberval was fifth in 8:09.
There were 22 entries in the annual event and they faced tough conditions. The water temperature was 20 Celsius with waves measuring a metre high at times due to high winds.