EILAT, Israel – Alexander Axon of Markham, Ont., posted Canada’s best-ever result at the 38-country FINA World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships on Thursday with a fifth-place finish in the boys five-kilometre race in the 14-15 age group.
Aleksandr Stepanov led Russia to a 1-2 finish clocking 58 minutes and 53.8 seconds on the Red Sea course. Ivan Morgun took the silver in 58:55.5 and David Bethlehem of Hungary was third in 58:56.5.
Orr Horev of Israel followed in fourth in 59:01.4 and Axon surged from 10th at the second split to finish fifth in 59:04.9. Krzysztof Chmielewski of Poland, the leader at both splits, wound up sixth in 59:06.4.
“I had a nice start but there were some parts I tried to hold back a bit,’’ Axon said. ‘’Coming into the finish we kind of split-up but I guess I chose the right pack and got around the last buoy before the second pack and took it home.’’
Ian Friesen of Kitchener, Ont., who was 25th and 23rd at the splits, also posted a nice finish climbing to 17th.
‘’It was O.K.,’’ Friesen said. ‘’I didn’t have a great beginning but had a better finish. I could have done a lot better with a stronger start. Still our preparation leading in really helped me keep up my endurance so that I was able to finish with a lot of speed.’’
In the girls 14-15 age group 5-km, Iris Menchini of Italy won the gold. Kenna Smallegange of Burlington, Ont., was ninth and Emma O’Croinin of Edmonton tied for 12th.
‘’It was a good race but there are a few things I could have done a little better,’’ Smallegange said. ‘’There was a time a went a little bit wide and the three medallists took a faster path and that caused a gap and I never caught up.’’
In the men’s 16-17 age group, Raben Dommann of North Vancouver took 13th spot and Michael McGillivray of Regina was 24th.
‘’This was the most aggressive race I’ve ever been in,’’ Dommann said. ‘’It was a learning experience. I was in a good position early but I let the pack string out too much and didn’t pick it up until it was too late.’’
In the women’s 16-17 age group 7.5-kilometre, Octavia Lau of New Westminster, B.C. was 29th.
In both 5-kms and the men’s 7.5-km, the Canadians showed massive improvements over previous results at the world juniors.
Competition continues Friday with the 18-19 age group 10-km and on Saturday it’s the team relays.