Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Faced with competing against Olympic medalists and world champions in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim qualification race today in Kazan, Russia, Aurélie Muller of France was undaunted.

With all the work and training the 25-year-old French swimmer from Sarreguemines had put in, she had every right to be confident. Muller has been among the elite of the sport since finishing 21st at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 10 km marathon swim as an 18-year-old. She won her first world championship medal in 2011 in the 5 km in Shanghai. Today, she stands on top of the podium as she earned the first gold medal for France in the open water and qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

I am very happy with the gold medal and I am also happy for Sharon and Ana Marcela. It was a crazy race today. I took the lead so I would not encounter any fighting. Sharon and I train together, but I never beat her in training. Sharon also swims events in the pool but I don’t. Just open water races. The race today was very easy in the first 5 km. I was leading at the 7.5 km point and it was still easy for me. So I left the group and said to myself, ‘I am trying something and see where it goes.'”

Behind Muller were two other pre-race favorites to qualify: Sharon Van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands and Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil.

Van Rouwendaal became only the second woman in FINA history to medal in both swimming (800m freestyle bronze in 2011) and open water swimming while Cunha will return to the Olympics after making it as a 16-year-old in 2008 and missing it as a 20-year-old in 2012.

Van Rouwendaal, who still has pool events to race (400, 800 and 1500m freestyle), summarized her performance, “I’m very happy that I qualified for the Olympic Games because it was my goal to finish in the top 10. I saw that we were just three at the end and I thought maybe I could win a medal. Aurélie and I train together in France under a great coach, Philippe Lucas. She arrived in February and I hope that we will train together until the Olympics. This is my first World Championships in open water, but my program in the pool begins on Sunday with the 400m freestyle.

I swam the 5 km on Saturday and had two days rest. I thought I recovered very well, but my legs did not feel very fresh so maybe if I didn’t swim the 5 km, but we won’t know that. In the 5 km, my strategy was to swim in the front because I didn’t want to get hit. In the last 500m of the 5 km, I thought I would be OK to make a move to the front, but my legs were not there and I arrived in fourth place. For the 10 km, my coach and I had a different strategy where I would save my energy for a strong finish and today’s plan worked.”

Cunha’s plans also worked out, especially after her disappointment in not qualifying in 2012. “I am very satisfied, not because I won a bronze medal, but because I finished in the top 10 and have qualified for the Olympics. It was a crazy race, I was in sixth or seventh and I am not sure who I passed on the way to the finish. I’m pleased because I have been training for seven years for this moment. Four years ago, I finished 11th in Shanghai and I narrowly missed the qualification for the London Olympics.”

Women’s 10 km Final Results:
1 Aurélie Muller (FRA) 1:58:04.3
2 Sharon Van Rouwendaal (NED) 1:58:06.7
3 Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) 1:58:26.5
4 Rachele Bruni (ITA) 1:58:27.9
5 Anastasiia Krapivina (RUS) 1:58:28.6
6 Poliana Okimoto Cintra (BRA) 1:58:28.8
7 Isabelle Härle (GER) 1:58:30.0
8 Kaliopi Araouzou (GRE) 1:58:30.6
9 Haley Anderson (USA) 1:58:35.9
10 Éva Risztov (HUN) 1:58:36.4
11 Anna Olasz (HUN) 1:58:40.0
12 Samantha Arevalo (ECU) 1:58:46.9
13 Chelsea Gubecka (AUS) 1:58:51.3
14 Becca Mann (USA) 1:58:51.9
15 Keri-Anne Payne (GBR) 1:58:53.6
16 Coralie Marine Codevell (FRA) 1:58:53.8
17 Cecilia Elizabeth Biagioli (ARG) 1:58:55.7
18 Yu Shi Shi (CHN) 1:59:28.6
19 Michelle Weber (RSA) 1:59:28.7
20 Kareena Lee (AUS) 1:59:32.8
21 Erika Villaecija (ESP) 1:59:33.8
22 Aurora Ponsele (ITA) 1:59:33.9
23 Angela Maurer (GER) 1:59:35.5
24 Maria Vilas (ESP) 1:59:38.2
25 Spela Perse (SLO) 1:59:38.3
26 Siyu Yan (CHN) 1:59:39.9
27 Sam Harding (CAN) 1:59:47.1
28 Yumi Kida (JPN) 2:00:01.8
29 Zaira Cardenas (MEX) 2:00:07.9
30 Alena Benesova (CZE) 2:00:12.4
31 Montserrat Ortuno (MEX) 2:00:12.8
32 Julia Lucila Arino (ARG) 2:00:31.2
33 Heidi Gan (MAS) 2:00:34.4
34 Jade Dusablon (CAN) 2:00:35.0
35 Danielle Huskisson (GBR) 2:00:57.3
36 Nataly Caldas Calle (ECU) 2:01:05.8
37 Marianna Lymperta (GRE) 2:01:08.5
38 Angelica Maria (POR) 2:01:40.4
39 Paola Perez (VEN) 2:05:31.5
40 Anastasiia Azarova (RUS) 2:05:59.4
41 Carmen Le Roux (RSA) 2:06:37.5
42 Liliana Hernandez (VEN) 2:07:13.0
43 Reem Mohamed Hussein Elsa Kaseem (EGY) 2:09:22.3
44 Fatima Flores (ESA) 2:12:38.9
45 Charlotte Mary Webby (NZL) 2:12:41.7
46 Cindy Toscano (GUA) 2:16:15.8
47 Xeniya Romanchuk (KAZ) 2:16:23.8
48 Hoi Man Lok (HKG) 2:20:13.2
49 Angelica Astorga (CRC) 2:20:39.4
50 Mariya Ivanova (KAZ) 2:20:44.9
51 Cho Yiu Kwok (HKG) 2:22:19.9
OTL Alondra Castillo (BOL)
OTL Mariam Abdelrahman Elsaye Sakr (EGY)
DNF Nikita Shailesh Prabhu (IND)
DNF Karla Sitic (CRO)
DNS Ellen Olsson (SWE)
DNS Ressa Kania Dewi (INA)



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