There was no denying the strength of the men’s open water 10km field today at the 17th FINA World Championships at Lake Balaton.
The field included names like Rio Olympic gold medallist Ferry Weertmen (NED), defending champion from 2015 Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) and Marc-Antoine Olivier (FRA) the bronze medallist from Rio and gold medallist from the 5km event earlier in the week, all lining up for a shot at the title.
Australia had 17-year-old rising star Jack Brazier taking on the 10km event, and the talented teenager did us proud, making his international debut in style.
Standing at roughly 170cm tall, Brazier may have been one of the smallest of the 65 swimmers in the field today, but he showed big heart throughout the four laps; maintaining his position in the lead pack for the majority of the race.
Brazier fluctuated between ninth and 12th place for the first three laps, sitting around 6 seconds off the leaders in a comfortable position but said he struggled on the turns.
“Those turns were tough,” Brazier said.
“I think I fell back a little bit going around them, obviously because I am so small, I was trying to get on the inside and every time I went on the inside I felt like I lost a bit…then I’d go around the outside and I lost it again, so I next time I just have to work on that.”
As the pace picked up in the final lap, Brazier just couldn’t hold on, touching the gate in 17th place with a time of 1:52:32.8.
“It felt pretty good,” Brazier said of his first major international open water race.
“Racing against those big boys, being a little fella, it’s pretty hard to stay in the pack but I felt like I kept my position really well and then it was just a dog fight that last little bit, so pretty happy with that 17th for my first swim!” he said.
The fight to the finish was on for the leaders as they turned past the final buoy, with the top six swimmers all finishing within four seconds of each other.
It was Weertmen (1:51:58.5) from the Netherlands, who eventually took the title at the touch, getting the better of the USA’s Wilimovsky (1:51:58.6) by just 0.1 of a second.
The bronze medal was awarded to France’s Olivier in 1:51:59.2, adding to his gold from the 5km event on Saturday.
Brazier’s coach at Kawana Waters, Michael Sage said he was proud of the way Jack raced today and was looking forward to working on his strength and last-lap-speed moving forward.
“He did a fantastic job for his first international swim, there were 65 in the race and he finished top 20 which we’re very happy with,” Sage said.
“Again, the pace was very strong but he felt comfortable, it was just that speed at the end, so being 17 he’s just got to get stronger.
“I think there’s a physical strength that comes with the guys that are more developed at the end of that race, he’s still developing, so he just needs to get stronger out of the water and that will transfer to his race.
“The fact that he positioned so well and kept himself in the race was great.
Towards the end there were some guys that had some really good speed but he generally hung onto the back quite well and showed that he could take it to them.”
Australia will have two swimmers in the women’s 5km event tomorrow with Kiah Melverton making her debut alongside her teammate Kareena Lee.
Full open water results available here.
Find out more about our team in Hungary here.