But today was a special day for the 22-year-old Chinese star-on-the-rise from Shandong.
It was a tough swim all around, especially as she had to touch over American Haley Anderson by less than a second, but she came through in style to qualify for her second Olympic 10K Marathon Swim as one of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics pre-race favorites.
The top ten finishers in today’s race at the 2019 FINA World Championships have qualified for next summer’s Olympic Games. In addition to Xin and Anderson, Rachele Bruni of Italy, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil, Ashley Twichell of the USA, and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands all qualified for the 2020 Olympics as race prognosticators had predicted.
But, as expected, there were surprises and the unexpected.
Lara Grangeon of France qualified fourth, but her more renowned teammate Aurélie Muller finished 11th and is now out of the 2020 Olympic picture. Kareena Lee made Australia proud with her 7th place finish, 3.3 seconds back from gold and two Germans – Finnia Wunram and Leonie Beck – now both have a shot of ascending to the 2020 Olympic podium.
The water was warm at 23.1°C and the race was clean with only two yellow cards issued. One post-race protest was officially issued by the French Swimming Federation, but it was not accepted by FINA.
Xin said in her post-race interview, “I am really excited for my first place today. My goal before this competition was to qualify for the Olympics. I believe that I can race better and better in the future. My strategy today was to relax and save energy in the first half, and to keep ‘clear in the mind’ and also to keep the confidence in myself.”
Anderson who qualified for her third straight Olympics was also ecstatic, “I am really happy with how I raced and I am excited to qualify for another Olympic Games. I can’t believe I qualified for my third Olympics. To get my hand on the touch pads in second is really awesome. I finally won a medal in the 10km at the world championships. I really learned a lot during the past two quads.It was pretty stressful and brutal in the race today. It was a little cut-throat out there because everyone was trying to finish in the top ten. I was trying to stay calm and confident. Coming down the last stretch was a pretty big pack and I tried to keep the best line possible to the finish and I found clear water. I wanted to avoid fighting with anyone as that isn’t good for either swimmer. I made up some ground on the leaders. It was always my goal to be on the podium here, it wasn’t just about finishing in the top 10 today. I am really excited about how I finished, not just where I finished. This is a great ‘set up’ for me for the Olympics next summer. I want to earn another medal for the USA at next summer’s Olympics. I still have plenty of racing ahead of me this summer. I will be competing in the 400m, 800m and the 1500m freestyle events in Lima, Peru at the Pan American Games next month.”
Bruni had a déjà vu moment in the race, similar to her interaction with Aurélie Muller at the 2016 Olympics on the last stroke of the race, “I don’t know what happened to the French athlete who was swimming next to me but I was sure that I arrived ahead of her.I was following my coach’s advice to take charge of a comfortable pace in the first half so that I would have the energy at the finish. I was able to remain calm and quiet for most of the race. This was my first medal in the world championships. I tried so hard in the final moments of the race because there were 10 or 15 swimmers arriving at the touch pad at same time. For me today’s results are very important as I qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. My target is always to win a gold medal and that is the goal for Tokyo.”
Women’s Olympic 10 km Qualification Race Results:
Creator of the WOWSA Awards, World Open Water Swimming Association, the Daily News of Open Water Swimming, Oceans Seven, Open Water Summit, Openwaterpedia, KAATSU Global and KAATSU Research Institute. Inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, recipient of the Poseidon Award and Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and a member of the Ice Swimming Hall of Fame, and former FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee member, Technical Delegate with the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, and 9-time USA Swimming coaching staff.