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Sanderson starts off summer with open water bronze medal and a ticket to Tokyo

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Trials –

SETUBUL, Portugal– Kate Sanderson got her summer started in a big way with a bronze medal at the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier Saturday. This third-place finish successfully meets the Olympic qualification process and is awaiting official confirmation she has qualified for nomination to Team Canada.

Tokyo 2020 will be the 21-year-old Toronto native’s first Olympic Games.

“It feels great, I’m really excited. It hasn’t really sunken in all the way yet,” said Sanderson, who trains at the High Performance Centre – Vancouver. “I’m really grateful and excited to be heading to Tokyo.”

Hungarian Anna Olasz was the winner, and Paula Ruiz of Spain touched second.

Sanderson got herself to the front of the pack early on and kept herself there for the entire race, even leading the way for the third and fourth lap. In the end, Olasz pulled slightly ahead winning by 3 seconds.

“It definitely felt a little different with everything outside of the race because of COVID but overall once the race started I felt very comfortable, everything from open water started to come back to me,” said Sanderson. “It was a tough field, I felt like I needed to put myself in a good spot at the beginning because I felt like that was the right thing to do so that was my strategy and I just continued to push the pace and hoped that after each lap I would get the field smaller so it would be a sprint to the finish. I’m really happy with how the race went.”

The race consisted of 40 female swimmers completing five laps of a two-kilometre course at the Parque Urbano de Albarquel venue in Setubal.

“That was a fantastic race for Kate. There was obviously a strategy with her, myself, and her coach Brad Dingey, to basically swim her own race. It was a risky strategy but it paid off in the end,” said National Distance and Open Water Coach, Mark Perry. “It was a really tough swim and tough conditions here. The water is not that warm and that is why it was a wetsuit race. However, it was a fantastic performance by her and I’m really pleased.”

Stephanie Horner, of Beaconsfield, Que., started off strong with the front pack and stayed with the group for the first three laps. After having dropped back a bit she finished 21st overall. The three-time Olympian just missed out qualifying for her fourth Olympic Games.

The 32-year-old has an impressive career in both pool and open water and has been on the national team since 2005. Horner went to the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games for the pool events, and qualified in 2016 for open water. She’s also attended several World Championships, Pan Pacific Championships and Pan American Games.

“A valiant effort from Steph, it was just not meant to be today,” said Perry.

A total of 15 spots were available in the 10-km race to qualify for the Olympic Games. The nine highest placed athletes at the event (one per country) obtained a spot. One spot went to the host country (Japan), and the 5 remaining spots went to the highest placed athlete, not yet qualified, from each of the five Continents.

“We are moving on and now looking forward to tomorrow with the men,” said Perry.

The men’s 10-km at the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier takes place Sunday at 4 p.m. local time with Canadian swimmers Eric Hedlin and Hau-Li Fan trying to earn an Olympic berth for Canada.

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