JINSHAN CITY (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s Petar Stoychev and Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil won controversial men’s and women’s 25-km open water races at the world swimming championships on Saturday.
However, the races were overshadowed by withdrawals and complaints that the water temperature, about 90 minutes from competition host city Shanghai, was too hot.
Stoychev won the marathon event in five hours, 10 minutes, 39.8 seconds, while Russia’s Vladymir Dyatchin in 5:11:15.6 took silver, just pipping Csaba Gercsak of Hungary (5:11:18.1).
Six swimmers, including Germany’s Thomas Lurz, who won the 5-km race and took silver in the Olympic-qualifying 10-km race, did not even start the men’s race, while nine withdrew during it. A total of 35 had entered the race.
A Reuters witness said the German team had tested the water temperature at the dock, and said it had reached 32 degrees Celsius.
They said the maximum temperature allowed to compete is 31 degrees and there were complaints from other teams that officials should have stopped the race.
The men’s race had originally been scheduled to start at 0800 (0000 GMT), but had its time moved twice, first to 0700 then 0600. The women’s race started at 0605.
American team officials said they had recommended their athletes not race as the water temperature was 30.4 degrees Celsius at 0530. They withdrew Haley Anderson and Alex Meyer before the race began.
Claire Thompson was closely monitored during the race before being pulled out by team officials.
U.S. officials have been extra cautious on water conditions since Fran Crippen, who was hoping to become the first U.S. open water medallist at an Olympics in London next year, died of apparent heat exhaustion at an event in Dubai last October.
A U.S. panel, set up to investigate the 26-year-old’s death, recommended that FINA implement minimum and maximum water temperatures for races and safety standards.
In the women’s race, Marcela Cunha finished in 5:29:22.9, just ahead of Angela Maurer of Germany (5:29:25.0) and Alice Franco of Italy (5:29:30.8).
Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Shanghai, Editing by John O'Brien; To comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org