By Mark Etheridge
Chad Ho gave South Africa huge reason for cheer as the rainbow nation got their 2015 FINA World Aquatics Championships campaign underway in Kazan, Russia on Saturday.
The 2008 Beijing Olympian snatched gold as the men’s 5-kilometre open water swim ended in dramatic style.
Germany’s Rob Muffels and KwaZulu-Natal’s Ho headed for the line neck and neck in the 55-participant race after Ho had made up plenty of distance in the final stages and both seemed to touch in the identical time of 55min 17.6sec at the Kazana venue.
But after an adjudicating process that seemed to stretch hours, the judges handed gold to Ho, and South Africa have their first medal of the championships. Third was Italy’s Matteo Furlan.
The gold will be the perfect, if belated, birthday present for Ho, who turned 25 last month. It’s his second medal in the 5km open water, having got bronze in Rome back in 2009.
Standing just five foot seven inches in the old measurement, Ho was dwarfed by the silver and bronze medallists on the podium… but in the water, were it counts, Ho was a giant!
At the 2008 Olympics, Ho ended ninth. The 5km distance swum on Saturday is a non-Olympic distance.
He failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London after ending 12th in the qualifying event in Setubal, Portugal.
At the 2013 World Champs in Barcelona, Spain he was fourth.
Earlier in the women’s 5km open water swim, SA results weren’t as impressive as sisters Carmen and Clarice le Roux ended 27th and 32nd respectively.
Their times were 1:04.06 and 1:05.50 in a race won by American Haley Anderson in 58:48.4.