By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s Chad Ho notched up his second top 10 finish at an Olympic open water swimming event as he came in just five seconds behind the winner at Fort Copacabana on Tuesday.
That 10th-placed finish will go very nicely thank-you, with his ninth spot at the Beijing Olympics eight years ago.
Ho clocked 1hr 53min 04.8sec – behind winner Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands after 10km of duelling. Earlier, the two were the last pair of swimmers out of the call room before a bemused early-morning crowd of joggers, dog-walkers and early sun worshippers on the world-famous beach.
Story of the race was that it could have been one of the all-time stories of open water swimming as Aussie Jarrod Poort was off and away, perhaps in search of an early sip of popular cocktail caipirinha on the beach, the choice of many early morning beach-goers.
Team SA open-water coach, Cedric Finch and national swimming coach Graham Hill were both part of the onlookers and were in unanimous agreement that Poort had done a ‘runner’ and wouldn’t be caught.
But such is the new nature of open water swimming that an early getaway can be hauled in and Poort was plucked in by the pack and eventually spat out to end third last in 21st position, 40sec off the pace.
Weertman’s win makes it a 1-2 for the Netherlands after compatriot Sharon van Rouwendaal had won the women’s 10km event on the previous day. The Copacabana strip has proved a happy hunting ground for the Dutch as the women’s road cycling event also went the way of the Hollanders earlier in the Games with Anna van der Breggen triumphing.
As for Ho, he was a happy swimmer. ‘Going into the race my preparation was good, better than for trials in Portugal two months ago.
‘I wanted a top 10 even a medal but it just wasn’t enough on the day and I can’t ask for anything more
‘Conditions were ideal, not too flat not too rough and I felt good all the way. I sat with the pack, got my feed when I needed to and happy to have another Olympics done and dusted.’
On the big pull by Poort to get away, Ho said the pack weren’t too concerned. ‘Yes, I saw him get away and think it was a bold move to do but these days the way we come back it’s hard to stay away and today it worked against him so he must live and learn – but a big effort him for trying.’
Ho also referred to the way open water swimming has evolved, not to mention that Tuesday’s swim was the first Olympics to feature and ocean marathon swim.
‘When I first started we’d all swim together till the last 100m and sprint for finish. Now it’s evolved with a lot of youthful guys and speed swimmers coming in.
“Now the guys are going sooner for the finish, three kays from the end the guys start going so from that aspect it’s definitely changed.’
On the way forward for the Westville swimmer: ‘I’ll get back now and rest the body and stay mentally focussed, then sit down with coach [Alisdair Hatfield] but already I definitely see another Olympics in me.
‘Obviously I must first finish my studies etc and then take it from there.’
Comparing his two Olympic top swims he was ambivalent. ‘Yeah I’m happy with both of them really, I would have liked to medal here but that’s one of those things .. .I’ll take two top tens and in four years hopefully I can be better and even on the podium.’
Picture courtesy of Getty Images