MAHÉ, Seychelles – The Canadian junior open water team started a weekend of racing off strong despite an organisational delay that postponed both the 5-km and 7.5-km races by two hours at the 2022 FINA World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships Friday.
Athletes are split by age group with those in the 14-15-year-old category competing in the 5-km race and the 16-17 year old category competing in the 7.5-km event.
Abby Dunford was Canada’s top finisher of the day placing 12th in the women’s 7.5-km event in 1:27:44.80. Teammate Julia Strojnowska of Vancouver was 21st in 1:30:13.20.
Katie Grimes of the U.S. won gold in 1:22:38.50. There was a tight race for silver with Narin Burcunaz of Turkey finishing second in 1:24:57.40 ahead of Lisa Csulak of Hungary in 1:24:58.90.
Dunford explained that the race was a great learning experience to build off of.
“Next time I might need to hold back a little bit on the first lap because I was top three and that used up quite a bit of my energy,” said Dunford, who also competed with the senior team at FINA World Championships in Budapest this summer. “It was amazing to see all the other swimmers race and to get put in my age group to see where I’m at. It’s making me more hungry for races and events like this.”
In the men’s 7.5-km event, Hunor Kovacs-Seres of Hungary touched first in 1:16:02.10. In another close finish, Paulo Strehlke Delgado of Mexico captured silver in 1:16:20.50 ahead of Mate Hartmann of Hungary in 1:16:20.60.
Olivier Risk of Ottawa, Ont. placed 17th in 1:21:24.30 and Aidan Erickson of Langley, B.C. finished 23rd in 1:22:33.20.
Claire Weinstein of the U.S. won gold in the women’s 5-km in 51:52.40. Turkey’s Tuna Erdogan captured silver in 51:56.80 followed by Noa Martin of Spain in 52:05.90.
Jessica Dregici of Kitchener, Ont., was Canada’s only swimmer in the women’s 5-km. Dregici finished 19th in a time of 56:47.50.
For most of the race, Dregici battled and drafted with two other girls. Unable to break away from the small pack while on the course, Dregici managed to out-touch her competitors at the finish.
“For a first experience I think I swam through it really well,” Dregici said. “It was also a very humbling experience to be a part of that aggressiveness. I think it was really amazing to swim with girls the same speed as me and swim with other distance girls. Back home I don’t have much of that.”
On the men’s side, Nathan Szobota of the U.S. placed first in the 5-km in 48:50.90. Davide Grossi of Italy took silver in 48:51.00 just ahead of Diego Heinze of Germany in 48:51.60.
Zach McLeod of Vancouver placed 17th in 51:55.40 and Dominik Kwiecien of Grande Prairie, Alta finished 20th in 52:49.30.
“It was a tough race,” Kwiecien said. “I managed to get with the first pack for the first lap but then I lost it and I didn’t have anyone to draft off of for most of the race. I think I learnt a lesson there. Next time, I’m going to fight more to stick with the front pack.”
More than 150 athletes from over 50 countries are competing at this year’s premiere event. Races are organized on a 2,500-m lap course in the Beau Vallon region of Seychelles, on the northwestern coast of Mahé. The same course was used during both the 2018 and 2019 FINA Marathon Swim World Series in Seychelles.
Racing continues Saturday with the men’s and women’s 10-km events. Athletes will compete on a 1,500-m lap course for the mixed 4×1500-m relay Sunday.