Van der Weijden wins 10K swimming race in close finish
By the Associated Press
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008 8:32 PM ET
BEIXIAOYING TOWN, China (AP) -- Dutch swimmer Maarten van der Weijden skirted just inside the final red buoy and grabbed gold, completing his recovery from leukemia.
Winning a three-way sprint with a better-angled finish, Van der Weijden took the inaugural men's 10-kilometer open water marathon at the Beijing Olympics under a steady rain Thursday.
David Davies of Britain and Thomas Lurz of Germany drifted to the outside at the finish and settled for silver and bronze.
Van der Weijden reached up to slap the yellow touchpad in 1 hour, 51 minutes, 51.6 seconds.
"If there is anyone in the field that can beat me, that guy is an absolute legend," Davies said of van der Weijden. "He's a great guy. He's obviously been to the depths in his personal life and to come back is a great story. Lance Armstrong epic."
Van der Weijden was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. He came back in 2003 and began swimming faster than before he had the disease. He now commits a large portion of his time to raising awareness for leukemia.
After the win, van der Weijden raised his arms in the air and pumped his fists as he walked around the dock. He was hoisted on the shoulders of his fellow countrymen and pointed a finger toward to sky to show he was No. 1.
Davies was at or near the lead from start to finish on the 6.2-mile course and opened up a five or six body-length lead with a few hundred meters (yards) remaining. He couldn't hold it, though.
"It's going to take a while for it to sink in," Davies said. "At the last bit, I didn't know what was going on."
Davies received medical attention after the race.
"I just wanted to lie down and have a sleep, but before I knew it I was on a stretcher," he said.
Along with Vladimir Dyatchin of Russia, Lurz was one of the pre-race favorites, having won the world title in this event in 2004 and 2006.
"I knew Maarten finished well, so it was important to stay with him," Lurz said.
Dyatchin, who won back-to-back world titles in 2007 and 2008, never contended and was disqualified after touching 12th.
Despite the rain, the race was held in ideal swimming conditions at Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park.
With the air temperature at 21 degrees Celsius (70 Fahrenheit), it was a decent contrast with the 27 degree (81 Fahrenheit) water. The water at the indoor swimming facility in Beijing is about 26 degrees (80 Fahrenheit).
The 25 competitors swam four laps each around the artificial body of water, with coaches riding close by along the shore on bicycles.
Van der Weijden won the 25-km race at this year's world championships and was fourth in the 10-km. His flexibility in adapting to different tactics and speed across various distances makes him a contender in almost any open water race.
Davies finished sixth in the 1,500-meter event inside the Water Cube on Sunday but is still relatively inexperienced in open water, as seen by his wide finish.
"I need to learn to swim straight. I know that sounds silly," Davies said.
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