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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maarten van der Weijden surprises favorites : Men's Marathon 10km

Maarten van der Weijden swims. (Photo credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Maarten van der Weijden of the Netherlands won the gold medal in a huge upset in the inaugural Men's Marathon 10km Swimming race at a rainy Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on Thursday, August 21.

The Dutch swimmer, who returned to competitive swimming after beating leukaemia which was diagnosed seven years ago, had not ranked among the pre-race favorites.

He put in a great sprint with 500m to go to overtake medal favorites David Davies of Great Britain (GBR) and Thomas Lurz of Germany (GER) to win in a time of 1:51:51.6.

Davies (GBR), who finished sixth in the 1500m earlier at these Games at the National Aquatics Center and was the Athens 2004 Olympic 1500m bronze medalist, just held on for the silver medal in a time of 1:51:53.1.

Lurz, with more success over the 5km distance but a world title in this distance in 2006 and one of the pre-race favorites, came home strongly to win the bronze medal in a time of 1:51:53.6.

In steady rain, the 25 swimmers hit the water with Davies quickly working his way to the front from Greece's Spyridon Gianniotis with Lurz right on their heels. With Davies, the 1500m specialist, at the front the field quickly became strung out.

Davies, like his compatriots Keri-Anne Payne and Cassandra Patten in the Women's Marathon 10km on Wednesday, led for much of the first three laps. At the beginning of the fourth and final lap the moves began to come. Lurz swam up to share the lead with Davies, until Gianniotis went to the front.

The pack then settled back down with Davies again taking the lead and increasing the tempo and his kicking. The pack split across the course with Van der Weijden, Davies and Lurz pulling away toward the middle of the course for the sprint to the line.

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