Ilchenko, Lurz Add To Open Water Titles

Associated Press
Sunday, March 18, 2007

MELBOURNE, Australia, March 18 -- Larisa Ilchenko pushed jellyfish and a few of her fellow competitors aside Sunday to win her fourth consecutive 5K open water race at the world championships.

Thomas Lurz of Germany defended his world title, winning the men's 5K race for the third consecutive time.

Swimming against choppy waves and 17 mph wind in Port Phillip Bay after a start from the famous St. Kilda pier, Ilchenko and Ekaterina Seliverstova gave Russia a 1-2 finish.

"For me it just confirms that to hold on to a title is harder than to get it in the first place," Ilchenko said.

Kate Brookes-Peterson of Australia won a disputed bronze. The fourth-place finisher, Britta Kamrau-Corestein of Germany, claimed she was pulled from behind by the Australian in the final 100 meters.

"Yesterday, everyone was so kind and friendly -- everyone was wishing each other good luck," Ilchenko said. "Today all the smiles were wiped off. It was a fight from the first moments of the day."

Ilchenko finished in 1 hour 41.3 seconds, with Seliverstova 2.3 seconds behind and Brookes-Peterson 6.3 seconds behind the winner.

American Chloe Sutton (Ahburn) finished 12th among 28 swimmers. She won the 10K title at last year's Pan Pacific Championships.

Curious onlookers, including cyclists and children, crowded the pier and beachfront trying to follow the swimmers.

Although world swim championships are held every two years, the open water races are held annually. Ilchenko won in Naples, Italy, last year, in Montreal in 2005 and in Dubai in 2004.

Lurz also won 5K titles in Naples and Montreal. He finished in 56:49.6 -- 1.1 seconds ahead of Evgeny Drattsev of Russia.

"Every time it gets a little harder because you put yourself under much more pressure," Lurz said. "I don't like these strong waves."

Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece was another seven seconds behind for the bronze.

Americans Scott Kaufman and Mark Warkentin finished 15th and 17th.

Ilchenko said the women's race was rough, and she wasn't just talking about the big waves.

"I got hit during the second lap because the American [Leah Gingrich] suddenly decided to use breaststroke," Ilchenko said. "Her leg kicked me in the eye, knocked my glasses off my head. I was swimming with one eye open."

Gingrich said she didn't remember any incident involving Ilchenko.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company