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Heat plays havoc in Shanghai

2011-07-23 09:16
Claire Thompson (AP Photo)

Jinshan - Unsafe water temperatures created chaos in the 25-kilometer races at the open water World Championships Saturday, forcing most of the American team to withdraw and one swimmer to accuse organizers of acting irresponsibly for allowing the events to be held.

The men's and women's races were moved up two hours to a 6 a.m. start in an attempt to stage them in cooler conditions. But the water was already 30.5 Celsius (87 Fahrenheit), just under the suggested "unsafe" point of 31C (88F) degrees.

The water temperature reached 31 later in the morning.

Italy's Edoardo Stochino was pulled from the water 4 hours, 50 minutes into the race and taken away on a stretcher as officials poured cold water over his chest. Thomas Lurz of Germany withdrew and defending champion Valerio Cleri of Italy withdrew after four hours, saying it was "too hot and too dangerous" to continue.

"There's not enough attention on the athletes," Cleri said. "There should not have been a race here. The jury was irresponsible."

Safety has become a major concern in open water swimming following the death of American Fran Crippen in the United Arab Emirates last year. Crippen, a six-time U.S. national champion, died in October near the end of a 10K World Cup event in warm temperatures. No one noticed him slip beneath the surface and his body was not found until two hours after the race.

The American team here is wearing "FC" on their warmup suits in memory of Crippen.

Organizers here unveiled a high-tech sonar system to quickly locate any swimmer that drops below the surface.

U.S. coach Jack Roach asked his team not to compete.

"After a collaborative discussion between USA Swimming staff, coaches, athletes and athletes' personal coaches, it was determined that Haley Anderson (who was ill yesterday) and Alex Meyer would not compete in the race," USA Swimming said in a statement.

The only American to start was Claire Thompson, who was in her first international event and wanted to swim. But American officials pulled her from the water 4 1-2 hours in when they checked the water and found it to be 32.6C (90.7F) degrees.

Meyer, the only U.S. man scheduled to swim Saturday, won the 25k race at last year's world championships in Quebec, Canada. He finished fourth in the 10k here while Lurz won the silver, qualifying both for the London Olympics next year.

Peter Stoychev of Bulgaria won the men's race Saturday in 5 hours, 10 minutes, 39.8 seconds. Vladimir Dyatchin of Russia was 35.8 seconds behind in second and Csaba Gercak of Hungary earned the bronze, 38.3 seconds behind Stoychev.

The women's race had a sprint finish, with Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil beating Angela Maurer of Germany by a body length. Cunha finished in 5:29.22.9. Maurer was 2.1 seconds behind for the silver and Alice Franco of Italy earned the bronze, finishing 7.9 seconds behind the Brazilian.

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