BEIJING (Reuters) - Not training for fear of getting ill, getting lost during the race, missing feeding stations and hitting marker buoys failed to prevent David Davies from winning silver in the men’s Olympic 10km marathon swim on Thursday.
Davies, who is more used to the safe confines of the pool in the 1500 metres freestyle, was just beaten by Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden in a sprint finish in the event’s Olympic debut.
“I always knew I was a novice, it might sound simple, but it’s really, really hard to swim straight,” he told reporters after he had continuously lifted his head out of the water to check his position during the race.
“Really, this is a bonus event for me. I was swimming in zig-zags, didn’t know what was happening. I was all over the place and my head was spinning.”
Davies swam a bold race, darting away from a scrum of clashing arms and kicks in the face and setting the pace for all the other swimmers to lead until the last 100 metres.
Cancer survivor Van der Weijden, however, stormed past Davies in the final sprint to win gold by just 1.5 seconds. Germany’s Thomas Lurz was third.
The Loughborough University-trained Davies, who was bronze medallist in the 1500 freestyle at the 2004 Athens Games and finished sixth in Beijing, had previously admitted he had a fear of big fish and only swum two previous open-water races.
He also did not bother to train on the Shunyi Olympic course for fear of getting ill.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. ...I had to fight a lot harder for this medal,” he said, comparing the marathon silver with his Athens bronze.
“This medal was completely unexpected. Last year I was adamant I didn’t want to do (open water).
“If I carry on the next four years, I’ll get better, but I’ll be honest, I never want to do it again.”
(Additional reporting by Derek Parr)
Editing by Greg Stutchbury