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Swimming Canada – ROBERVAL, Que. – Hau-Li Fan of Burnaby, B.C., made a spectacular 10 kilometre race debut on Thursday as he won the bronze medal at the fourth stop on the FINA marathon swimming circuit.

The 19-year-old, who had never swam a longer distance than six-kilometres in his previous three career open water races was just as stunned as everyone else to be on the podium.

‘’When I finished the race I thought I was eighth or ninth, I was just happy to be respectable,’’ said the science student at UBC. ‘’When everyone told me I had won a medal I was really surprised.

‘’I’m not really experienced, I was going up against a lot of seasoned competitors. I just thought if I could stay in there and finish somewhere decent I would be pretty happy.’’

It took two world championship medallists from Italy to be beat Fan on the chilly Lac-St-Jean course.  Simone Ruffini, the 25 kilometre world champion in 2015, took the gold in one hour and 56 minutes and 11.1 seconds. Federico Vannelli, a member of Italy’s third place squad in the open water team event last week at the FINA Worlds in Budapest, was second in 1:56:13.7. 

Fan followed in 1:56:17.4.

‘’My strategy was to stay in front with the pack and not get left behind at any time,’’ said Fan, who is coached by Steve Price at UBC. ‘’I just kept looking around a lot and I knew I was with the front group. I just needed to hold on as long as possible. With about six hundred metres to go I decided I was going to go for it.’’

Price was thoroughly impressed.

“He raced at a couple of local races in the four kilometre and six kilometre distances and got the bug for the sport,” said Price. “This summer he wanted to give the real deal a go and we couldn’t have asked for a better start.’’

Fan’s focus has been the distance freestyle events in the pool, the 800m and 1500m freestyles. This past May he won gold in the 800 at the Mel Zajac International in Vancouver and he will compete at the national championships next week.

‘’I’m going to continue doing both open water and pool swimming,’’ he said. ‘’But I’m definitely going to take open water more seriously after this race.’’

Other top Canadians were Richard Weinberger of Victoria, the Olympic bronze medallist in 2012, in eighth and Nicolas-Masse Savard of Montreal was 10th.

In the women’s 10-kilometre, Arianna Bridi of Italy was the winner in 2:03:15.5, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil second in 2:04:24.9 and her compatriot Viviane Jungblut third in 2:04:26.4.

Breanne Siwicki of Winnipeg was the top Canadian in 10th in 2:05:48.2.

Next on the schedule is the 32 kilometre FINA Grand Prix, the famed Traversée du Lac-St-Jean, on Saturday.

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Nathan White

Senior manager, Communications, Swimming Canada

Gestionnaire supérieur des communications, Natation Canada 

t. +1 613-260-1348 x2002 | m. +1 613-866-7946 | nwhite@swimming.ca