Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Huge packs under a pressure situation led to an all-out every-man-for-himself sprint at the end of the men’s 2012 FINA Olympic 10km Marathon Swimming Qualifier in Portugal’s Setubal Bay today.

But no one could hang onto Oussama Mellouli who proved too quick and strong on his second 10 km marathon swim this year, winning by a comfortable 11.7 seconds. He played his cards just right, hanging with the leaders throughout the race and then blowing out into an insurmountable lead on the last lap.

With such a performance in the cooler waters of Portugal, Mellouli has suddenly shot up the ranks to be a medal favorite in the warmer waters of the Serpentine which have already hit 20°C (68°F).

The warmer waters, the faster pace and smaller field (of 25 men) should be work in his favor and pit him against gold medal favorites Thomas Lurz of Germany and Spyros Gianniotis of Greece.

Savvy Olympians Petar Stoychev and Valerio Cleri were always in or near the lead, not wanting to take any chances and held their ground although emerging star Richard Weinberger of Canada did his best to stick with Mellouli on the last lap. Weinberger also looks to be a strong medal contender, although he’ll have to step it up in August when the pace is expected to be much faster at the Olympics.

Troyden Prinsloo upset fellow South African Olympian Chad Ho by placing fifth. Prinsloo’s strategy was clear: stay up with the leaders and hang on at the end. His strategy paved the way for his first Olympic marathon swimming berth.

Yasunari Hirai will join his female counterpart Yumi Kida in representing Japan at the Olympic marathon swim. Hirai was in and out of the lead pack, but he came on strong when it counted at the end. Ivan Enderica Ochoa also performed well and qualified for the Olympics as did two-time marathon Olympian Arseniy Lavrentyev of Portugal.

It was a wild race with lots of yellow cards (and a resultant red card). There is the remaining all-important issue as to who qualified and will accept the invitation to compete in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim final in London. Will Chris Bryan of Ireland or Benjamin Schulte of Guam get in if New Zealand does not accept the invitation? Will there be other federations that also pull out? Lots of questions and issues remain and will be sorted out by the officials and individual delegations.

The unofficial results are as follows:

1. Oussama Mellouli (TUN) 1:45:18.5
2. Richard Weinberger (CAN) 1:45:30.2
3. Petar Stoychev (BUL) 1:45:34.1
4. Valerio Cleri (ITA) 1:45:36.8
5. Troyden Prinsloo (RSA) 1:45:40.8
6. Yasunari Hirai (JPN) 1:46:14.6
7. Igor Chervynskiy (UKR) 1:46:15.4
8. Ivan Enderica Ochoa (ECU) 1:46:17.2

9. Arseniy Lavrentyev (POR) 1:46:20.9
10. Yuriy Kudinov (KAZ) 1:46:22.8
11. Erwin Maldonado (VEN) 1:46:29.2
12. Chad Ho (RSA) 1:46:29.4
13. Igor Snitko (UKR) 1:46:30.1
14. Csaba Gercsak (HUN) 1:46:30.7
15. Chris Bryan (IRL) 1:46:30.7
16. Michael Dmitriev (ISR) 1:46:31.6

17. Luis Ricardo Escobar Torres (MEX) 1:46:31.6
18. Sergiy Fesenko (AZE) 1:46:31.7
19. Allan Do Carmo (BRA) 1:46:38.0
20. Francois Xavier Desharnais (CAN) 1:46:38.4
21. Yuval Safra (ISR) 1:46:39.4
22. Johndry Segovia (VEN) 1:46:40.7
23. Lijun Zu (CHN)1:46:41.5
24. Santiago Enderica Salgado (ECU) 1:46:43.1
25. Matthias Schweinzer (AUT) 1:46:52.6
26. Gergely Gyurta (HUN) 1:46:53.9
27. Kane Radford (NZL) 1:47:02.7
28. Jan Pošmourný (CZE) 1:47:04.9
29. Ventsislav Aydarski (BUL) 1:47:37.9
30. Luciano Sales Rubio (ARG) 1:47:41.5
31. Ferry Weertman (NED) 1:47:42.7
32. Marcel Schouten (NED) 1:47:45.3
33. Lucas Kanieski (BRA) 1:49:08.5
34. Rostislav Vítek (CZE) 1:49:36.6
35. Daniel Fogg (GBR) 1:49:38.2
36. Mazen Aziz (EGY) 1:49:38.2
37. Damian Blaum (ARG) 1:49:42.7
38. David Davies (GBR) 1:50:04.0
39. Jovan Mitrovic (SUI) 1:50:09.3
40. Vasco Gaspar (POR) 1:50:11.7
41. Stefan Sigrist (SUI) 1:50:12.4
42. Ahmed Gad (EGY) 1:52:14.8
43. Jonathan Pullon (NZL) 1:53:30.4
44. Saleh Mohammad (SYR) 1:53:56.9
45. Tin Yu Ling (HKG) 1:54:12.2
46. Evgenij Pop Acev (MKD) 1:54:13.2
47. Divase Mandar Anadarao (IND) 1:57:07.9
48. Iacovos Hadjiconstantinou (CYP) 1:57:48.8
49. Ahmed Gebrel (PLE) 1:58:10.8
50. Kurt Niehaus (CRC) 1:58:24.7
51. Yuanpeng Lang (CHN) 1:58:48.3
52. Benjamin Schulte (GUM) 2:00:56.4
53. Yeung Lee (HKG) 2:04:46.1
54. Gabriel Moldoveanu (ROU) 2:10>43.0
Ivan De Jesus Lopez Ramos (MEX) DNF
Nicola Bolzonello (ITA) DNF

Tomislav Soldo (CRO) DNF
Josip Culina (CRO) DNF

Mohammed El Mehdi Essadiq (MAR) DNS
Said Saber (MAR) DSQ
Yuto Kobayashi (JPN) DSQ

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