USA Swimming is off to a golden start at the world championships. Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson won the first swimming event of the aquatics worlds, taking the open-water 5K in 56 minutes, 34.2 seconds.
Anderson, 21, who medaled in the 10K in London, edged Brazilian Poliana Okimoto by .02 for the close victory.
At nationals last month, Anderson was forced to skip her graduation from USC to compete in the 10K. She failed to make the U.S. team in the event, the only distance on the Olympic program, so Saturday marked a bit of redemption.
“I didn’t walk at graduation and I didn’t do well in the 10K so it was a pretty tough day,” Anderson told The Associated Press after winning Saturday. “But I knew if wanted to make the worlds team I had to win the 5K. There really was no other option. I had to put that race out of mind and just win the 5K. I went for it in that 5K to make the team and I’ve been focused on this 5K ever since then.”
Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli won the men’s 5K, becoming the first person to win Olympic and world titles in both open water and the pool. Americans Andrew Gemmell and Sean Ryan were 13th and 22nd, respectively.
Anderson is the first individual American world open-water champion since Chip Peterson won the men’s 10K in 2005 and the first female champion since 1998.
The other American, Becca Mann, 15, was eighth in 56:46.4.
Open-water swimming has been part of the world aquatics championships since 1991. There will be four more individual events (men’s and women’s 5K and 25K) and a team event next week in Barcelona.
The open-water swims wrap up next Saturday. The indoor swimming events begin the following day.