Individual open water races wrap up with 5-km
FUKUOKA, Japan – Canadian men turned in two top-30 finishes as open water swimming continued with the 5-km races Tuesday morning (Monday evening in Canadian time zones) at the Fukuoka 2023 World Aquatics Championships.
Two-time medallist Eric Hedlin of Victoria was Canada’s top finisher with a 26th-place finish, 2:56 behind Florian Wellbrock of Germany. Calgary’s Benjamin Cote came 29th, 3:26.1 behind Wellbrock, who also won the 10-km earlier in the championships.
Hedlin pushed as far forward as 20th heading into the final kilometre, but said an elbow to the nose derailed his final positioning – just two seconds from 21st.
“I was right with everyone, I felt really good and felt my legs were coming on. I got a great draft coming in just 200 metres to the finish and I got hit in the nose,” said Hedlin, 30. “I moved to the side, lost the draft completely and saw everyone go by.”
With the temperature well above 30 degrees for the later of the two races at Seaside Momochi Beach Park, Cote found the heat challenging.
“That kind of threw me off a little and it’s aggressive so I guess I’ve got to learn to get hit in the face a few times,” said the 20-year-old, who was racing in his national team debut and only his second open water race including Canadian Open Water Trials in April.
“I think I was maybe a little too cautious the second lap. I have no experience doing a 5-km so I didn’t really know exactly how to approach it but I think being too relaxed caused me to fall behind the pack a bit and spend too much time trying to chase. I learned a few things – dealing with the salt water, the waves from the boats.”
Etobicoke native Bailey O’Regan, who trains with the Sarasota Sharks, finished 33rd in the women’s 5-km, 2:55.3 behind winner Leonie Beck of Germany.
The 17-year-old was the top finishing junior swimmer, and eighth-youngest competitor overall in the 63-swimmer field.
“I learned a lot from that race. Every open water race you learn something new and that was my third ever 5-km,” said O’Regan, who her national team debut with a 38th-place finish in the 10-km. “It’s been amazing. Everyone’s just been so supportive and so nice. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better first experience.”
“She was the quickest junior and she was closer to the front than our swimmer was last year in that event. She got up there in her third ever open water race and she’s got a future,” said Open Water Head Coach Mark Perry. “Ben, his second ever open water race, he listened well and he did what he needed to do. I think the future for him is bright. He can learn more about it, he just kind of lost the pack.”
As Canada’s top finisher in the 10-km Hedlin has already qualified for the Doha 2024 World Aquatics Championships, which will serve as a qualifier for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. He will also represent Canada at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, this fall.
“The veteran Eric was his usual self there. I think he knows there’s some work to do there for Doha to qualify for the Olympics. We know what he needs to do,” Perry said. “I’m pretty pleased with their positions to be honest.”
“This meet is another one where we have another couple clear things to work on going forward until Chile and then until February in Doha,” Hedlin said.
The open water competition wraps up Thursday (Wednesday evening in Canadian time zones) with the 6-km mixed relay set for 8 a.m. local time (7 p.m. ET Wednesday).
The world championships run through July 30. Approximately 2,400 competitors from 200 countries are expected to compete, including 32 Canadians (16 men, 16 women) across pool and open water swimming.
“I’m super excited to swim with the team together. We’re all super close during this trip so I think it will be fun,” O’Regan said.
The eight-day pool swim meet gets underway July 23. Viewers can catch the action live via the free CBC Gem steaming service, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports App for iOS and Android devices, and watch broadcast coverage on CBC TV as part of CBC Sports weekend programming throughout the competition.
CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux is in Japan poolside keeping audiences up-to-date on the latest news and posting social videos daily.
Events will be live streamed across CBC Sports digital platforms, with a live swim show hosted by Anastasia Bucsis streaming daily on CBC Gem beginning July 23 for all final events.
Full team list: https://www.swimming.ca/en/national-teams/senior-national-teams/fukuoka-2023-world-aquatics-championships/
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