Mellouli digs deep to win landmark 10km swim
8/10/2012 4:00:02 PM -
LONDON (AFP) - Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli survived a late surge from his rivals to win the men's 10km swimming marathon on Friday and become the first person to hold Olympic titles in both pool and open water races.
Mellouli broke clear at the start of the last lap and clung on in the final stages to hold off Germany's Thomas Lurz and Richard Weinberger of Canada.
The Tunisian, who also came third in the 1500m freestyle on Sunday, finished 3.4sec ahead of Lurz in a superb time of 1hr 49min 55.1sec at a sun-soaked Hyde Park.
World champion Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece finished just outside the medals in fourth place, with Great Britain's Daniel Fogg fifth.
Mellouli's victory represented yet another milestone for the pioneering 28-year-old.
In 2008 in Beijing, three months after returning from an 18-month doping ban, he became the first African man to win an Olympic gold swimming medal when he topped the podium in the 1500m freestyle.
He is the second man to have tasted victory in the Olympic open water swimming marathon, after Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden won the inaugural event in Beijing four years ago.
Mellouli also collected a bronze in the 1500m at these Games last weekend.
"I don't think this has ever been done before. This is probably one of the toughest things to do," he said.
Mellouli made the early running on a baking hot afternoon on the Serpentine lake, with a pack of swimmers assembling behind him to capitalise on the reduced water tension in his wake.
Weinberger had pulled ahead by the time the field reached the end of the first lap, with Mellouli second and Fogg third.
The pack condensed on lap two, and although Mellouli upped the pace again on the following lap, the swimmers remainded tightly condensed at the halfway stage.
Germany's Andreas Waschburger moved to the front of the field at the start of the fourth lap, and he led Weinberger by 1.8sec and Mellouli by 2.1sec with two laps remaining.
The big guns moved into position on lap five and as the final circuit of the lake began, Mellouli, Lurz, Gianniotis and Weinberger had broken away from the rest of the race.
Mellouli took the initiative once again on the sixth lap but although he had extended his lead to 13sec at one point, he faded badly in the final sprint and had to grit his teeth to beat Lurz to the finishing line.
Friday's race was the final swimming event of the London Olympics.
The United States were already assured of finishing top of the swimming medals table, having accumulated 31 medals -- including 16 golds -- in the pool.