Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The last time Alex Meyer competed in Lac Saint-Jean, it was at the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Championships.

His gold medal victory was one of the most curious and exciting races in history when he and Italy’s Valerio Cleri, the reigning 25 km world champion, went literally stroke-for-stroke over the final 1 km. The men were swimming alongside each other for 24 km – surging and leading, drafting and positioning for nearly 5 hours. Then the pair went into full sprint mode, shoulder-to-shoulder.

Around the final turn buoy, Cleri attempted to veer Meyer off the straight-line tangent to the finish – at a 45° angle to the right. Cleri had the clear advantage as he pushed Meyer off towards the stands, not straight to the finish pontoon. No yellow card or red card was called as the duo went mano-a-mano down the final 500 meters.

But then Meyer took a 90° turn to the left, swimming across the back of the legs of Cleri. The move caught the Italian off-guard with less than 200 meters to go. Meyer wanted clear water and fought for a beeline path to the finish. But Cleri was not to be juked so easily. Cleri immediately went into counter-attack mode and made his own 90° turn, trying to stay ahead of Meyer and steer the American in the other direction.

With less than 100 meters to go, Cleri again had the upper hand as both men were angling off the straight path to the finish. With a half-stroke advantage over Meyer, the race was Cleri’s to lose as the referees choose to allow maximum physicality without calling any impeding calls.

But Meyer made one more quick angle turn – again to the right at 90°. He obtained a quarter-stroke advantage over Cleri and kicked it into a single-stroke victory.

This week, world 25 km champion Meyer has returned to Lac Saint-Jean and will compete in his first 32 km Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean, a FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix event.

The 2016 schedule for the week-long 62nd annual Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean is as follows:

July 23rd: Uniprix 1-2-5 km Masters and Age groups competition
July 26th: Défi Plouf Initiation à l’eau libre pour les 5 à 15 ans
July 28th: FINA/HOSA 10 km Marathon Swimming World Cup
July 29th: Rio Tinto Youth Marathon
July 30th: FINA 32 km 62nd Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean

But Meyer is going to face Canadian home favorite and two-time defending champion Xavier Desharnais [shown above]. In 2015, Desharnais won outright. In 2014, he shared the victory podium with Tomi Stefanovski to win the FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix circuit.

It should be quite a battle in the conditions that usually can be counted upon to be cold and rough.

Last year, the turbulence was so great that the number of non-finishers (11) nearly equaled the number of finishers (12). Pilar Geijo of Argentina (5th overall in 2015) and Spain’s Esther Nuñez Morera (7th overall in 2015) will also expect to be in the mix among their male colleagues.

The results of yesterday’s opening event of the Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean (1 km Uniprix) are here.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association