British marathon trio round-off productive Worlds campaign

18 Jul 2023

Great Britain’s marathon swimmers have rounded off their 2023 World Aquatics Championships campaign with a series of productive results as they went toe-to-toe with the best in Fukuoka.

Hector Pardoe, Amber Keegan and Leah Crisp were all in action at the Seaside Momochi Beach Park, with the trio qualifying for the competition following a series of impressive results at the preceding cup competitions in Sardinia and Settubal.

Keegan and Crisp were first to take to the water out in Japan (15th July), as they both contested the Women’s 10km event. With a start for both of the athletes seeing them right in the mix with the chasing pack as the race progressed over the six laps of the course – Keegan was the one who managed to keep within striking distance of the dozen girls who were chasing the six leaders.

Keegan had a strong finish to her race, as she managed to get in and amongst her pack and finish in a solid 18th place, which sees her meet the selection criterion for the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

She was pleased with her performance when giving her thoughts; reflecting on her own efforts in what she described as one of the more challenging races of her career.

“I am pretty ecstatic, to be honest. My first open water race was only 13 months ago, so it's been a super steep learning curve - and even this race at Worlds, I made so many mistakes, going around the buoys and slipping off people's feet when I was trying to draft, which is something I've never really had to do before this last year. So for me, it was both a really exciting and really frustrating race.

Amber Keegan Fukuoka 2023 [Getty]
Keegan impressed in her first international championships for 10 years

“For those first two laps in particular, everyone is jostling around for places. I actually struggled the first two laps of that race and got stuck about 30th, I was panicking like, 'don't let the pack break, I need to get up there' and managed to.

“Open water is chaos, and I kind of enjoy that about it. It's real, raw racing, it's not just about who's going the fastest, which is maybe what excites some people. I'm obsessed with my times as much as any other swimmer is, but for me, the racing is why I enjoy it, not the times - so for me, open water has been everything I enjoy about swimming. It's really tough and the training is so much harder, but it suits me.”

Crisp was involved in a fight of her own as the packs began to break – making a late charge to the front as her own efforts saw her finish in 24th place on her World Championship debut.

Speaking after the race, Crisp gave some insight into how the race unfolded from her point of view in the midst of the action, whilst also sharing her thoughts on the upcoming Olympic test event in Paris, which she will be competing in.

“It was a very different experience to the other races I've done this season. The others helped me gain a bit of experience, but then this was even more important in that it was so much more competitive and fast-paced - everyone was really fighting for those top spots, particularly with the Olympic places to contend for.

“I'm glad I got to go in there and get a feel for it, and I've learned a lot to take forward into future races. I was slightly disappointed with my result, but I'm glad my season isn't over yet, I've still got one more race so I can go and, for myself, put things right and get the result I want there.”

Pardoe opened his 2023 World Championships campaign the following day (16th July), with the 22 year-old in and amongst athletes who have tasted success at every level of competition.

With the more well-established athletes trading blows down the first half of the race, Pardoe did well to bide his time by sitting with the main pack as the race progressed into the front pack of eight, and those chasing behind.

His efforts were enough to make inroads in that following group as the race came to a head – with several athletes all within a few body lengths of each other before Pardoe managed to get his hand to the board in a solid tenth place.

The result means that Pardoe has also hit the selection criterion for the next edition of the World Championships in February – an achievement he says he is happy with, even if there is room for improvement.

“I thought it was a good race. One place higher than last year's Worlds is nice, I would've liked to have come a bit higher - I was aiming top eight before the race. But I've hit that Doha 2024 selection criteria, so hopefully the pressure is off a bit if I'm selected for that.

“I can now focus on Paris in a years' time and get my head down for that, and then also looking good for Israel in December. I wish that I'd just attacked it a little bit earlier, I was probably a little bit too far back and then I had too much left in the tank at the end. 

Hector Pardoe Fukuoka 2023 [Getty]
Pardoe will be eyeing a second Olympic appearance next year

“If I'd been a bit higher up on lap three and four and stayed with that front group maybe for a bit longer, that'd have been nice and in the end I was quite a long way from it, but I managed to beat everyone around me and salvage the best finish I could.”

With two days to recover following that men’s event, both Keegan and Pardoe returned for the 5km events, which despite not being on the Olympic programme, were still full of talent across the 71 and 59 respective fields of male and female athletes who lined up along the platform for the start of the race.

Keegan was involved in a much tighter scramble with the main pack throughout her race – struggling to make headway into those who managed to become front runners during the hour-long, three-lap course on the Japanese coast – ultimately seeing her settle for 41st place amongst over a dozen athletes who were in the same predicament.

Pardoe’s time in the event saw him fare a bit better – staking his claim amongst the leaders of his own pack in what was still a tight race, with the Tokyo Olympian recording a 15th-place finish.

For full results and all the info on how to watch the rest of the programme from Fukuoka 2023, visit our 'What's On?' page.