Gregorio Paltrinieri and Sharon van Rouwendaal won the first open water gold medals of Roma 2022 following victories in their respective 5km events in Ostia.
The sport had been due to begin on Thursday but due to stormy conditions on the Italian west coast racing had to postponed by two days.
A condensed schedule opened with the 5km event at 1000 local time before a fresh field took to the course for the gruelling 25km distance shortly after 1300.
Unfortunately due to deteriorating weather conditions chief referees and the safety delegate decided to stop the 25km races, with the LEN Technical Open Water Committee then deciding to cancel the classification for both races.
MEN’S 5KM OPEN WATER
Paltrinieri – who won 800m gold and 1500m silver in the pool last week – was the favourite but knew he was likely to face a strong challenge from team-mate Domenico Acerenza, Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary and Frenchman Marc-Antoine Oliver.
Paltrinieri made a strong start and although his rivals remained close the Rio Olympic 10km open water champion always looked in control.
The podium line-up can change dramatically in the closing stages and true to form this would be decided by a sprint finish with Paltrinieri, Acerenza, Olivier and Logan Fontane racing for three medals.
The Italians broke clear and Paltrinieri touched in 52 minutes 13.5 seconds to take gold (by 0.7 secs) from Acerenza. Olivier edged third by 0.5 seconds from fellow Frenchman Fontane.
“It was special because I saw so many familiar faces,” Paltrinieri told LEN TV.
“It can be a tricky sea and the first lap was calm, the second was wavy, which you have to adapt to during the race, but it was okay and although it was a bit of a battle with people to my left and right the challenge is always good..”
WOMEN’S 5KM OPEN WATER
The women’s event was also stacked with talent, headed up by the Rio 2016 Olympic champion and Tokyo 2020 10km open water silver medallist Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands.
The field also featured World championship silver medallist Leonie Beck and team-mate Leah Boy of Germany and a host of other major medal winners such as Aurelie Muller of France and Italy’s Giulia Gabrielleschi.
However, it was Maria De Valdes Alvarez of Spain who made not only a surprise early charge, but maintained that push for the podium throughout the 5km.
Her rivals were close throughout though and that group included van Rouwendaal.
The Dutch master traditionally looked to dominate from the front but has adapted her tactics in recent years and she timed her moment to attack, to perfection, moving clear in the closing meters to claim gold in 56:58.7.
Spaniard De Valdes Alvarez just touched in second as a pack of four athletes hit the finish area at the same time and after a review there was delight for Giulia Gabbrielleschi and Italy as she secured the final podium place.
“I’m very pleased we got to race first of all!” van Rouwendaal told LEN TV after claiming her eighth European open water title.
“I love the fans and when an event is on the beach there’s a lot of people, like in Rio (at the Olympics) where people come to watch and here it was the same. The Italians are really passionate so they were cheering and it made it a really good event.”
25KM EVENT STATEMENT:
This is an official announcement regarding the Men’s and Women’s 25km Open Water Swimming races at the LEN European Aquatics Championships, held on 20th August 2022.
Due to a case of emergency because of the weather conditions, both chief referees and the safety delegate decided to stop the races immediately for the safety of the Athletes and Officials on the course.
Since the Chief Referees did not have a view of the final rankings for both races, the LEN Technical Open Water Committee decided to cancel the classification for both races.
LEN owes an apology to all athletes participating this race, who devoted themselves to hard work to be ready for this event, for not being in a position to determine the final classification, even though the event was held amid these extreme conditions.
According to LEN’s principles, the athletes’ and officials’ safety shall prevail in all circumstances.
The 10km races on Sunday and the 5km Team Relay are planned to be held according to the schedule announced earlier, from 10.00 and 16.00 respectively.
However, in case of adverse weather conditions, the races can be postponed or cancelled.