Brazilian Cunha wins women’s 5km open water at world titles

GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — Ana Marcela Cunha improved on her already impressive career in open-water swimming at the world championships with a win in the five-kilometre race yesterday.

It was the 27-year-old Brazilian’s fourth gold and 10th medal overall at the world championships since 2011.

Cunha, who was consistently in the top 10 throughout the race, pulled away in the final 300 metres to finish in 57 minutes, 56.00 seconds, a second ahead of Aurelie Muller of France. There was a tie for the bronze medal: American Hannah Moore and Leonie Beck of Germany both finished in 57:58, two seconds behind Cunha in the non-Olympic event.

Defending five-kilometre world champion Ashley Twichell of the US was placed seventh.

Cunha has won the 25-kilometre race three times at the worlds, but this was her first gold at the five-kilometre distance. Her previous best finishes over five kilometres were bronze medals at Barcelona in 2013 and at Budapest in 2017.

From left: Gold medallist Ana Marcela Cunha, silver medallist Aurelie Muller, and bronze medallists Leonie Beck and Hannah Moore with their medals. – AP

Last Sunday, Cunha finished fifth in the 10-kilometre race to earn a Tokyo Olympics berth for 2020. At the Olympics, only the 10-kilometre distances for men and women will be staged.

“In the 10k, I really wasn’t happy with that result,” Cunha said. “Today my strategy was to swim a bit more relaxed in the first half. I was behind the girls until the third lap when I started to move up. In the final lap, I just got myself to where I needed to be.”

Moore was thrilled with her tie for the bronze medal at her first world titles.

“This has by far exceeded my expectations,” the American said.

“I knew it would be really rough, just based on watching the other races. The girls went out really fast, so I tried to stay calm and be a little braver than

I wanted to be, and it worked out in the end.”

She said she was inspired by the performances of her American teammates in Gwangju.

“Watching Haley (Anderson) win a silver medal in the 10k and to see that she and Ashley (Twichell) both achieved the Olympic qualification in the 10k really fired me up,” Moore said. “I just got into this sport last year and I’m kind of learning from them.”

All 54 starters completed yesterday’s race.

The open water races continue today with the five-kilometre team relay. The 25-kilometre races for men and women, also non-Olympic events, conclude the open-water programme tomorrow.