After winning his 6th consecutive 5km world open water title, Thomas Lurz (GER) opened up the can of worms just a little bit wider as he said: "I competed in a FINA World Cup event in Portugal just three weeks ago and wore a suit with a zipper in it, but I was told that I was not allowed to use at these championships. This doesn't make sense to me. I know that I am not alone, I know that there are many others who brought suits that they raced in at the World Cup events in June and they were told that these suits were not permitted in Roberval."
The mistake, of course, was made in Portugal - not Roberval - but not by the Portuguese hosts, as we will soon reveal. FINA rules agreed last year are clear and make no distinction for open water other than the fact that leggings, down to ankle, can be worn, in recognition of the usefulness of covering skin in certain open-water conditions. The world cup event at Troia was attended by a large number of senior officials, all of whom should have known that zippers were not allowed, many of whom could (and should) have stepped in and said 'sorry, you can't wear that, please go get changed'. The officials did no such thing because FINA told them that zippers were fine for open water suits. And more on that shortly...
Lurz added: "I swam here with a very old suit because I could not get use several of the styles that I brought with me. I could not get some of the styles of swimwear that others are wearing here." So, availability clearly remains an issue, in the face of FINA rules that state that all suits must be commercially available to all. "It's not fair and there should always be a level playing field," said Lurz. "For the World Championships it must be very clear in advance what suits are permitted in the competition. It makes a difference to the athletes what they can swim in, especially during colder conditions. The uncertainty and the inconsistency is extremely frustrating and I know that I am not the only one that feels this way."
Quite so. And then there is this: swimmers and other sources in Roberval maintain that the Jaked suits worn in racing this week by some Italian team members were approved on June 30, not in April. Cornel Marculescu, the Executive Director of FINA, insists that April 15 was the date of approval for those suits.
There is, of course, an immediate administrative solution: from now on, all updates to the Approved Suits list should be announced separately and a date of approval stamped next to their inclusion on the full list of approved suits. Confusion seems to have taken hold in part because the approved suits list is simply added to and unless you keep records of each passing update and record the time and date against it, it is almost impossible to work out what has been added and when.
Lurz, meanwhile, collected a yellow card on his way to victory and feared that might have ended his chances of a 6th world title in successsion in the race in Lac-St-Jean. But all worked out well: Lurz remains unbeaten over 5km since winning the 2005 world crown in Montreal. The clock this time round rang out 57:42.6, a result that took his golden open water tally to a record nine crowns across all distances. His collection includes the Olympic marathon bronze.
Lurz was challenged by Fran Crippen (USA), who was in the medals mix the whole way. Also always close was Evgeny Drattsev (RUS) and in the sprint for the line won by Lurz, the Russian overhauled the American to take silver, Crippen 3.9sec back from gold.
After the tussle in 20C waters, Lurz said: "The water wasn't cold like Sunday and I am very happy about that. It really was just to cold for me to perform at my best in the 10K and that was really disappointing. Today I feel that I swam a perfect race. I didn't really feel good during my first lap today and then sometime during the first lap I was issued a yellow card for contact that the officials thought I had with one of my competitors.
"This is something that happens all the time in open water swimming and from the point of the warning I was extremely careful. I knew that I needed to swim off by myself and stay about from the other guys in the race. I just swam alone for awhile. I took the lead with about 1,00 meters to go and I thought that I was about a body length ahead of American Fran Crippen until the final turn. At the 500 meter to go mark he was trying to catch me but I was sure that I could win if I stayed ahead of him at the final buoy as we entered the sprint."
Top 10 finishers:
There were 29 swimmers in the race.
Drattsev said: "I am very happy but this is only a small victory because I wanted to win. I knew that Thomas also wanted to win and it's normal that we would be challenging at the finish. Thomas is a very strong swimmer and I was focused on catching him and I hoped to pass him. I wasn't able to do that today but he was my only focus. I don't remembering passing the American but I do remember chasing after Lurz. He was extremely fast today."
Crippen's take was this: "I was pleased with the way I swam today. I followed my race plan as closely as I could believing this was my best chance to win. I remember getting kicked in the face early in the race, that's just part of the sport and not an excuse, but it told me that I needed to get in the front and lead. With 1,500m to go I felt this was the place to overtake Thomas so that I would be in first position when i turned at the final buoy for the final 200 meter sprint. I used an awful lot of power in trying to catch him.
"Lurz is the fastest open water swimmer in the world and I want to be the fastest open water swimmer in the world. I admire Thomas, he is tough but always fair, he always races hard and he makes me a better swimmer. That's why I love racing against him and I will keep trying to beat him. I felt that I raced well today but I know that I could go even faster. I know that I have the speed to win. The Russian swam a great race, and he snuck by me."