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The start of something extraordinary

Bright Start for New Zealand at World Swimming Championships

New Zealand’s open water swimmers Cara Baker and Kane Radford impressed on the opening day of the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

Baker finished a career-high sixth while Radford was 18th in a bunch finish in the 5km open water swim in Barcelona Harbour.

Swimming New Zealand coach Philip Rush confirmed that Baker’s sixth place is the best by a Kiwi in open water at a world championship.

Baker, who turned 23 earlier this month, clocked 56:46.2s, out-touched for fifth by Germany’s Isabelle Harle, with both swimmers given the same time. American Haley Anderson, the London Olympic silver medallist, took out the 5km race in Barcelona Harbour in 56:34 with the New Zealand champion only 1.5sec off the podium.

“I am pretty excited,” Baker said. “In Canada and Shanghai I got ninth in the 5km and today I wanted to better those swims and get as close as I could to a medal. That swim today honestly it is just like getting a medal for me and I am pretty proud of myself.

“It is great result for a first swim. I’ve got two days to settle down for the 10km and here’s hoping after this performance that everything can fall into place.”

Baker had to recover after being swum-over by another swimmer at the first turn buoy, pushing her well back in the field. She recovered to be 10th after the first 2.5km lap, five seconds behind the leader.

Coached by Denis Cotterell on the Gold Coast, Baker pushed hard in the closing sprint with a group of seven swimmers fighting out for the final spot on the podium in the open water event that raced over a U-Shaped course in the marina.

“It’s a very technical course and in training they did not have the swim buoys out. So not only is it great to get a good result but now I know how the course works and the key parts for the 10km.

“We’ve got some interesting new turn buoys which are great because it means people are not crashing and bashing eachother. It is a great course to swim but very, very technical with a lot of turns."

“Now I understand where the turn buoys are I can really have a go in the 10km and try harder to get that finish perfect. I think the key is to go out there and enjoy it all.”

Compatriot Emma Robinson (Capital, Wellington) was well in touch at the midway point in her first world championship, but had to be content with 24th placing in 57:29.5s.

Radford swam confidently in a packed front bunch in the men’s race, going through the first lap in 11th, led by recent training partner, Australian Rhys Mainstone-Hodson and Russian Sergey Bolshakov.

Olympic 10km gold medallist Oussama Mellouli (TUN) turned up the heat in the final dash to the line to claim the world title in 53.30, with more than 20 swimmers finishing within 15 seconds. Young Canadian Eric Hedlin was second ahead of Olympic silver medallist and five-time world champion Thomas Peter Lurz (GER).

Radford had a strong effort to finish 18th in 53:44.3 ahead of Mainstone-Hodson.

“The men’s race was very physical and Kane did a great job to finish so close in what was extremely rough going at the front of the field.”

Auckland’s Phillip Ryan was 38th in a solid 56:17.5 and will be more suited to the key 10km race in three days.

FINA World Championships, 5km Open Water Swim:
Women:  Haley Anderson (USA) 56:34.2, 1; Poliana Okimoto Cintra (BRA) 56:34.4, 2; Ana Marcela Cunha (GRA) 56:44.7, 3. Also: Cara Baker (NZL) 56:46.2, 6; Emma Robinson (NZL) 57:29.5, 24.
Men: Oussama Mellouli (TUN) 53:30.4, 1; Eric Hedlin (CAN) 53:31.6, 2; Thomas Peter Lurz (GER) 53:32.3, 3.