**Frenchman comes from behind to retain men’s Doha title
**Brazilian star beats Cassignol in a photo finish in women’s race
Doha (QAT), 13.03.2021: Marc-Antoine Olivier (FRA) and Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) posted exciting wins in the season-opening 10km FINA/CNSG Marathon Swim World Series 2021 Doha (QAT) held at Katara Beach on March 13.
Olympic bronze medalist Olivier took 1:52:02.4 to bag his second consecutive title in the Qatari capital, while five-time World Champion Cunha edged Océane Cassignol (FRA) in a photo finish, clocking 2:01:30.3 to regain her Doha title after the 2019 triumph.
In the men’s race – the final event of the day starting at 2pm - 2019 FINA World Championships gold medalist (5km) Kristof Rasovszky (HUN) was ahead in the first two laps before Olivier picked pace to set up the victory.
Rasovszky finished second with a time of 1:52:05.5 while Olympic and World champion Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) completed the race in 1:52:07.9 for a bronze medal.
Olivier, 24, termed his victory in the season-opening race important.
“It was a difficult race because of high waves and I am so happy to win here again. I started slowly and picked pace [in the last three laps], as I followed the last year’s plan in which I was successful,” he said.
“This first meet was so important because it is an Olympic year and my win here is crucial,” Olivier added.
Qatari swimmers Nour Eddine Kheddache, Ahmad Samara, Mohamed Mahmoud, Salama A Kareem Salah and Tameea Elhamayda also participated in the race.
Earlier, in the women’s race kicking off at 9am, Cunha and Cassignol were neck and neck as there was not even a second’s gap between the two athletes throughout the contest.
However – Cunha, also a silver medalist in Doha last year – managed to keep her slim lead over the French during all the five laps for her second gold medal in Doha.
Cassignol finished the race in 2:01:30.8 for a second place, with Lea Boy (GER) clinching the bronze medal with a time of 2:01:31.9.
Brazilian star Cunha was elated with her close victory in Doha that marked the return of Marathon Series after over a year.
“The level of the race in presence of athletes who are preparing for the Olympics was very tough. There was a lot of wind but I like swimming in these conditions. These conditions make the race tougher for every contender,” Cunha said.
On the return of World Series, the 28-year-old said: “I want to thank Qatar for organizing the race. It is very exciting to come back here and compete in the World Series. During quarantine, we had more time to train. It is nice to come here and put that to practice.”
Last year’s winner in Doha, Leonie Beck (GER) missed out a medal after touching the finish-line in 2:01:32.8, claiming fourth position.
Rio 2016 silver medalist Rachele Bruni (ITA) and European champion Arianna Bridi (ITA) claimed the next two spots with times of 2:01:33.2 and 2:01:34.4 respectively.
A total of 35 athletes finished the women’s race.
Mr. Husain Al Musallam, FINA 1st Vice-President awarded medals to athletes, while Qatar Swimming Association (QSA) President Mr. Khaleel Al-Jabir and Secretary General Mr. Talal Mohammed Al Darwish also attended the medal ceremonies.
QSA, which will host the Doha 2023 FINA World Championships, organized the event by adhering to all COVID-19 protocols advised by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).