Haley Anderson definitely earned some relaxation time in Maui.
The Olympic silver medalist won the Pan Pacific Championships open-water 10K swim by .01 over U.S. teammate Eva Fabian in Hawaii on Sunday. Andrew Gemmell won the men’s race for a U.S. sweep.
Anderson’s victory came less than two weeks after she suffered a jellyfish sting in training, a hazard unique to open-water swimmers, one that Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin don’t have to worry about.
It also came one week after the Pan Pacs open-water races were moved to Maui from Gold Coast, Australia, due to high pollution levels following heavy rain Down Under.
“The whole situation was pretty nuts,” Anderson said. “If anybody can handle it, it’s open-water swimmers. We’re always at the whim of nature.”
Anderson, 22, said she suffered the jellyfish sting Aug. 18, her first day of practice in Gold Coast.
“I think I had an allergic reaction to [the jellyfish sting],” Anderson said. “I got hives all down my legs. It was nasty, like pinkish-reddish.”
Undeterred, she swam in the pool at Pan Pacs three days later, finishing seventh in the 800m freestyle won by Katie Ledecky.
Three days after that, she learned that her primary race at Pan Pacs, the open-water 10K, was postponed by six days and moved 4,750 miles to Maui, in conjunction with the junior Pan Pacific Championships.
“I was pumped,” Anderson said. “I was like, ‘We’re going to Maui!'”
Anderson said the water in Hawaii was so excellent she saw a turtle beneath her as she swam. She also wasn’t hampered by the often-times physical nature of open-water races. She said she led for about three-quarters of the race, staying out of traffic.
She finished in 1 hour, 59 minutes, 51 seconds. Fabian was one second behind. Another American, Becca Mann, was two seconds back. In all, seven swimmers were within 10 seconds of Anderson at the end of the grueling event.
“The last lap in general was just a sprint to the finish,” Anderson said. “You just worry about what you can do and play to your own strengths.”
Anderson has now won medals at the biggest meets the last three years — silver in the 2012 Olympic 10K, gold in the 2013 World Championships 5K and now her first Pan Pacs medal of any color.
Her focus will stay on the 10K going into next year’s World Championships in Kazan, Russia. There, she can qualify for the Rio Olympics. The 10K is the only open-water event contested at the Olympics. No American has won gold in Olympic open-water swimming, which debuted in 2008.