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Aurélie Muller Disqualified On Last Stroke Of Olympic 10K

Images courtesy of on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

After Sharon Van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands emphatically slapped the finish pontoon to win the women’s Olympic 10K Marathon Swim on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in a brilliantly courageous race, Aurélie Muller of France and Rachele Bruni of Italy came sprinting down the finish chute.

Muller was a bit wide of her ultimate goal, hit one of the buoys that holds up the finish pontoon, and took a stroke that landed her on top of Bruni. She let out a yell and just barely touched ahead of Bruni. Although Muller was initially awarded the silver medal. By all indications and traditions of the sport at the elite level, it was clear that there was an official decision to be made. Muller had swum on top of Bruni, unintentionally it seems and instinctively for certain given her position, so the decision was later overturned and Muller was disqualified.

This decision gave the silver medal to Bruni and the bronze medal to 33-year-old Poliana Okimoto of Brazil, the first swimming medal for Brazil at its 2016 Olympic Games.

In the photos above, Muller has a white cap on and is on the outside (left) of Bruni who has the black swim cap on. While no one wants to see a disqualification of a tightly contested race, especially on the last few strokes of a 10 km course, the fact that Muller found herself on top of Bruni, her position and weight caused Bruni to sink down in the water. It was clear that Bruni was impeded which is a call for disqualification.

On the other hand, Muller’s move seemed to be unintentional and it could also have been ruled an infraction – not a disqualification – and she could have been given a yellow card. But with the last stroke of the Olympic race with head referee John West right there, Muller’s move led to her touching out Bruni. This sinking of her rival as they were reaching up to touch the finish panel was judged to be an infraction for impeding.

Muller’s problem was that she already had a yellow card and was automatically disqualified for this second impeding infraction.

Frankly, Bruni appears to swim straight into the finish from at least 200 meters out. It is in her right to swim straight without being impeded,” said Steven Munatones, a former FINA referee. “Bruni did not veer into Muller who swam a bit left of the finish pontoon and buoy. She, unfortunately, ran into the buoy and when she realized it, she appeared to take a cross-over stroke and landed on top of her rival. Her impeding of Bruni could not have come at a worse time for the reigning world champion. Her last stroke seemed to be more of an instinctive move rather than an intentional action to gain an advantage, especially when a scream is here that put an exclamation point on the dramatic, unexpected finish.”

Meanwhile, another pre-race medal favorite, Ana Marcela Cunha had her own unexpected problems. She said, “I missed my feeding 3 times during the race. Someone hit my [feeding] pole and my drink was gone.” She also thought about her own race strategy in a post-race interview. “I she decided to go to front of the pack, joining Éva Risztov in the lead on the second lap. But Sharon [Van Rouwendaal] did a great job positioning herself in the middle of the pack conserving energy.”

This was ultimately a gold medal decision.

Stephanie Horner of Canada said of her performance, “All in all, it was good – this was my eighth race ever, I’m pretty new to this sport,” Horner said. “It’s definitely progress. I was supposed to feed on lap one and two, which did. The goal was to stick with the front pack – be in the mix. I tried to stick with it on lap three, but lost it a little bit. It was in the fourth lap that the pace really picked up.

I think this wave really represented open water well. There’s waves, it’s salt water there’s 25 people, best of the best. Some races there are only 15 or 16 women … open water is meant to be out in the ocean.”

2016 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim Final Results:
Gold Sharon Van Rouwendaal (Netherlands) 1:56:32.1
Silver Rachele Bruni (Italy) 1:56:49.5
Bronze: Poliana Okimoto (Brazil) 1:56:51.4
4. Xin Xin (China) 1:57:14.4
5. Haley Anderson (United States) 1:57:20.2
6. Isabelle Härle (Germany) 1:57:22.1
7. Keri-Anne Payne (Great Britain) 1:57:23.9
8. Anastasiia Krapivina (Russia) 1:57:25.9
9. Samantha Arevalo (Ecuador) 1:57:27.2
10. Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil) 1:57:29.0
11. Kaliopi Araouzou (Greece) 1:57:31.6
12. Yumi Kida (Japan) 1:57:35.2
13. Éva Risztov (Hungary) 1:57:42.8
14. Anna Olasz (Hungary) 1:57:45.5
15. Chelsea Gubecka (Australia) 1:58:12.7
16. Spela Perse (Slovenia) 1:58:59.6
17. Erika Villaecija (Spain) 1:59:04.8
18. Michelle Weber (South Africa) 1:59:05.0
19. Jana Pechanova (Czech Republic) 1:59:07.7
20. Paola Perez (Venezuela) 1:59:07.7
21. Heidi Gan (Malaysia) 1:59:07.9
22. Joanna Zachoszcz (Poland) 1:59:20.4
23. Stephanie Horner (Canada) 1:59:22.1
24. Vânia Neves (Portugal) 2:01:39.3
25. Reem Mohamed Husein Elsayed Kaseem (Egypt) 2:05:19.1
DSQ Aurélie Muller (France)

For information on the equally exciting and controversial men’s 10 km marathon swim, visit here. (Dutch Treat! Ferry Weertman Wins Olympic 10K Marathon Swim).

© 2016 Daily News of Open Water Swimming

to educate, enthuse, and entertain all those who venture beyond the shoreline

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