By Rod Gilmour
KAZAN, Russia,(Reuters) - Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha won the women’s 25 kilometer world championship open water title on Saturday, raising the prospect of a potential gold in home waters at next year’s Rio Olympics.
Cunha, who had colored the sides of her hair purple, backed up her 10km open water bronze earlier in the week by touching first after 5 hours 13 minutes 47.3 seconds on the Kazanka River.
The 23-year-old, who won the 2011 world title, battled with Hungary’s Anna Olasz throughout, but coasted clear on the final lap. The Hungarian posted 5:14:13.4 to win silver and German Angela Maurer took bronze.
“One year away from the Olympics, the results of this championship give me motivation to train more and more,” Cunha told reporters.
The men’s 25km open water race proved a far tighter affair as Italy’s Simone Ruffini edged out Alex Meyer of the United States in a sprint finish. Ruffini, a European silver medalist in the team event, recorded 4:53:10.7 to finish 4.4 seconds ahead of Meyer.
“The rain did not impede,” Ruffini said. “I won the gold medal, that means that the weather was alright”. The Italian then unraveled a written proposal on the medal podium asking to marry his girlfriend, who was watching from the stands.
Two years ago in Barcelona, Germany’s Thomas Lurz became the first male swimmer to win a gold medal in every open water discipline. But his retirement in May paved the way for a changing of the guard after the all-conquering long-distance specialist finished his career with 12 world golds.
Six different nations won world titles from the seven events in Kazan. The United States finished top of the medal table after claiming two golds. Haley Anderson won the women’s 5km race and Jordan Wilimovsky prevailed in the 10km.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)