JToday’s men’s 10km marathon swim comes just 24 hours after Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha won gold in the women’s race at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing the race slightly faster than the peloton.
Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands, who was looking to defend her title from the 2016 Games in Rio, won the silver medal with a final time less than a second behind Cunha, and Kareena Lee of Australia, won bronze.
“I didn’t plan for it to happen this way, but I’m extremely happy,” Cunha said, sporting fluorescent green and yellow hair that perfectly coordinated with her Brazilian uniform.
Cunha has five individual world championship titles to her credit, but has not won any medals at the Olympics.
Swimmers made their way through the water at Odaiba Marine Park, with clouds sitting low in a blue sky at times providing welcome shade from the scorching sun.
With little wind and little current, the race became a show of endurance and tactics in warm water as temperatures soared.
Germany’s Leonie Beck led with one lap to go, until the athletes started rolling out to push each other, repositioning themselves for gold.
It was Cunha who powered forward and swam the best line around a turn with just over a mile to go, taking a lead she refused to concede until the end.
“The water is quite warm, and I knew it would be a problem for people at the end” if they didn’t stay hydrated, van Rouwendaal said.
She held back tactically earlier in the race, but couldn’t catch Cunha on the final lap.
“It was more like a safe bet to maybe get the medal…I think that was my best result for the hot water,” she said.
The men’s race started in hot conditions at Odaiba Marine Park with Team GB’s Hector Pardoe chasing one of the medals after winning the Olympic qualifier in Portugal to save his place.