Eva Risztov of Hungary held off a late charge from American Haley Anderson to win the gold medal in a dramatic women’s marathon swim at the London Olympics today.
The pair went stroke for stroke over the last 500 metres of the gruelling 10 kilometre event before Risztov got her hands on the finishing pads first at the Serpentine.
Risztov pipped Anderson to win the gold by just four tenths of a second, almost the same margin Dutch sprinter Ranomi Kromowidjojo won the 100 freestyle final by last week.
“It was a really tough race but I was prepared,” said Risztov. “In a few hours I will be much more happy because I’m really, really, really tired now.”
The battle for the bronze medal was also decided by the exact same tiny margin with Italy’s Martina Grimaldi getting there ahead of Britain’s two-time world champion Keri-Anne Payne.
The longest and most exhausting swimming race at the Olympics was contested at a recreational lake in Hyde Park that was constructed in 1730 and remains one of London’s most iconic tourist destinations.
It turned out to be as much a battle of survival as a test of the fittest with two swimmers failing to complete the event and others complaining about getting kicked and punched in the face.
South Africa’s Jessica Roux was pulled from the water halfway through the two-hour race while Brazilian Poliana Okimoto fainted from dehydration after she was hauled into one of the safety boats.
“It was a pretty violent race,” said Payne, who lost touch with the leaders when she paused to get an energy drink after the third of the six loops.
“I had to work pretty hard to get back to the position I like. I’m not really a fighter, I’m more of a lover, I guess.”