On a calm summers day at Lake Balaton for the 17th FINA World Championships, 62 women battled it out for the 10km title.
The pace was set early by France’s Aurelie Muller who led from start to finish, creating a game of ‘catch me if you can’ for the rest of the field.
Both Chelsea Gubecka and Kareena Lee hung on tight, keeping up with the lead pack and the speed of the laps for the majority of the race.
It was not the style of race they were used to but that wasn’t going to keep Gubecka and Lee out of contention.
Maintaining a top ten place past each timing gate, Gubecka said she knew she was swimming at threshold pace but was determined to stick with the leaders.
“Yeah it was definitely tough, the pace was just on from the 2.5km mark, so I basically swum 7.5km at a threshold pace which is unheard of in open water swimming,” Gubecka said.
It was Muller (FRA) who eventually grabbed the gold after leading for the entire race, clocking a time of 2:00:13.7.
Ecuador’s Samantha Arevalo (2:00:17.0), a dual Olympian from 2012 and 2016 was a clear second while the fight was on for third, with Arianna Bridi and Ana Marcella Cunha finishing equal third in 2:00:17.2.
With 400 metres to go Gubecka stormed home to finish ninth overall in 2:00:30.0, just 16.3 seconds off the winners pace.
“I heard the French swimmer that won the race, she lead for the whole way, so she definitely turned on the pace quite early, which strung out the field and separated the pack and I was so excited to not lose them and still be there for the finish,” Gubecka said.
Making her debut in 2013 at the Barcelona World Championships, Gubecka said she was happy to be able to keep improving.
“This is my third worlds and I have improved; I started off at 30th, moved up to 13th and now ninth, so I’ve finally cracked the top ten,” Gubecka said.
“For me, every race is different and this has just been a new experience and the way this was raced is, unheard of.”
Looking towards the future, Gubecka said she knew what she needed do to continue her rise up the ranks.
“Maybe open water is changing a little bit, maybe I need to work on being able to hold a high speed over a longer distance… we don’t get to race these girls often, but when we do we know the pace is on,” Gubecka said.
Gubecka’s coach Michael Sage echoed the swimmers sentiment, that the pace was certainly on.
“I thought that was one of the toughest races that she has raced at an international competition,” Sage said.
The pace didn’t really change which did surprise us, but we did train for different situations and I think that showed when she was able to keep up with the lead pack and unfortunately we just didn’t have that last gear that would have seen us finish in the medals.”
Lee, who was 19th in today’s race, also improved on her placing from 2015, hitting the timing gate in 2:02:08.1.
“That was one better than two years ago, so I guess I’ve improved,” Lee joked.
“It was a good race, it felt pretty fast the whole way…I would have liked to go a bit better but I can’t be too disappointed with that.
“I felt from the second lap that everyone just took off, so I was left trying to catch the whole way which was a bit annoying and not normally how that happens.”
Lee will now turn her focus to the 5km event where she expects the speed to once again be on early.
“It’s different tactics for the 5km, you just kind of have to go from the start in that!” Lee said.
The open water swimmers have a break tomorrow and then Jack Brazier will take to the water on Tuesday for the men’s 10km race.
Full open water results available here: http://www.omegatiming.com/Competition?id=0001110500FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF&sport=AQ&year=