For the first time since open water swimming became an Olympic sport in 2008, the United States will have two women competing in the 10k at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell finished second and sixth Sunday in the 10k open water race at the 18th FINA World Championships in South Korea, turning in times of 1 hour, 54 minutes and 48.1 seconds, and 1:54:50.5, respectively.
They became the first American swimmers to qualify for next year’s Olympic Team by virtue of their top 10 finishes.
It was the third time Anderson – the Olympic silver medalist in the 10k in 2012 – has qualified for the Olympic Games. And while she has medaled in the 5k open water race three times at Worlds (two gold and a silver), this is the first time she has ever medaled in the 10k race at a World Championships.
“I’m so excited,” Anderson said. “I can’t believe it – not just making my third Olympics, but medaling in the 10k at worlds is really exciting, and I’m just so stoked for next year. It was pretty stressful, pretty brutal, and a little cut-throat out there because everyone’s trying to make the Olympics, so I was getting a little feisty, but I just tried to stay calm the whole time and position myself – just try to be calm and confident. Those were the two words just repeating in my head the whole time.”
Tokyo will be the first Olympic Games for Twichell, who won the world title in the 5k in 2017. She will also be competing in the 5k on Wednesday.
“It definitely feels a little surreal,” Twichell. “The first 5k went by really fast for me, then the actual race got really fast at the 5k. I just tried to stay focused on the moment and stay relaxed for as long as I could, and that final push give it everything I had.
“I did fall back a few times, in feeds and after turns, so I just tried to work myself back up – but comfortably – and then that last push was hard. I knew there were more than 10 of us in the pack. I didn’t know how many, so I just tried to stay strong and comfortable and especially that last 300 meters give it everything I had.”
Finishing first in Sunday’s race was Xin Xin of China in 1:54:47.2. Rachelle Bruni of Italy was third in 1:54:49.9.
Open water action will resume Tuesday at the Yeosu Expo Ocean Park with the men’s 10k. The top 10 finishers in that race will also qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Competing for the U.S. will be David Heron and Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky. Wilimovsky was the 2015 World Champion and the 2017 World silver medalist in the 10k.