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Russian Ilchenko makes it twice at swimming worlds (photo attached)

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Russian Ilchenko makes it twice at swimming worlds

With a record participation of 42 swimmers from 25 countries (in Montreal 2005 they were 23 athletes from 16 nations), the 10km women's race of the 12th FINA World Championships demonstrated that the 'Beijing 2008 effect' is a reality in open water swimming. Besides the numbers, there is also a significant 'change of guard' concerning the competitors, as only 10 of the 42 that entered the race were also present two years ago in Canada.

Despite the less favourable weather conditions than for the 5km (cloudy and some rain), the Russian Larisa Ilchenko was not intimidated by adversity and won her sixth world title (and second in this distance), thus equalling, at only 18 years old, the remarkable roll of honour of the Dutch Edith van Dijk, also gold medallist in six occasions from 2000 to 2005. Van Dijk still remains the most medalled athlete of all times, with 14 awards: six gold, four silver and four bronze.

Ilchenko is definitively a 'winning card', as she conquered the six titles in all the six races she contested at World Championships (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007).

The 10km race was quite thrilling and the Russian's triumph was not as easy as in Naples 2006, where she arrived nine seconds ahead of Brazilian Poliana Okimoto and from her compatriot Ksenia Popova, and more than 10 seconds quicker than Angela Maurer (GER).

In Melbourne, her main challengers were the British Cassandra Patten and the Australian Kate Brookes-Peterson, but also the 'veteran' Maurer, the oldest of the participating competitors at 32 years old.

Ilchenko touched first in 2h03m57, winning the sprint against Patten (20 years old) and Peterson, while Angela Maurer was fourth, 2.8 seconds later. Patten, only seventh in Naples 2006, gave to her country the first female medal in this discipline, after Alan Bircher in the men's field at the FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships Dubai 2004 (also second in the 10km). Brookes-Peterson repeated her successful bronze medal of the 5km, after being eighth in 2006 and 14th in Montreal 2005.

The other young Russian, Ksenia Popova, was fifth at more than four seconds of the bronze medal (she was third in 2006 and fourth in Canada), while the German Britta Kamrau-Corestein finished in the sixth position (she was on the podium in 2005). It was only the second time, since 2000 and the introduction of the 10km in the world championships programme, that the German team misses the podium: the first time it happened was last year, in Naples.

The seventh place went to the Czech Jana Pechanova (she was silver medallist in Dubai 2004), ahead of the Brazilian Poliana Okimoto, the revelation of the 2006 FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships, where she had won two silver medals in the 5km and 10km. Also a deception was the Italian Federica Vitale, second in Montreal 2005 and only 17th in Melbourne.

(Credit: FINA. Click here for further information.)

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