Hector Pardoe recorded a stunning victory at the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier, with teammate Toby Robinson producing a sterling swim of his own to join him in the podium places.
(Header image, photo credit: FINA)
Following on from Alice Dearing’s fourth paced performance ensuring TeamGB would have a representative in the Women’s Olympic Marathon Swimming event, Pardoe and Robinson lined up on Sunday in Setubal, with an opportunity to bid for the one available quota spot available to Great Britain in the men’s event.
From the offset both British athletes were up to speed with the pace of the race, staying within the front chase pack of the 63-strong field, as Takeshi Toyoda (JPN) went solo up ahead for the opening four laps. Come the 8km mark, Hector and Tobias sat third and fourth respectively, and it wasn’t long before they overhauled Toyoda to take the lead as they began to turn the screw on the race.
Pardoe, who was eighth at the European Championships last month, placed himself with the clean water at the front, Robinson on his toes as a nail-biting head-to-head played out over the final kilometre – both men knowing that only one qualifying spot was available per nation. As the pair turned round the final buoy, Pardoe was still in possession of his body-length advantage and, with a final sprint for home, claimed a crucial victory toward his Tokyo ambitions.
Commenting on his race, Pardoe said:
"The feeling is indescribable. After taking such a big risk moving my life to France, not speaking the language, having to fend for myself in a foreign country - which was made even harder by the covid restrictions and not being able to see my family for 6 months at a time. Then of course the intensity of my training, averaging 85k every week for the last 2 years, it all has resulted in something that I’m so proud of!
"Obviously I'm ecstatic to get the qualification spot but also to get the win on top of that, I was thinking before the race that I was a contender for winning the race, but the pressure and my mind were more focused on the qualification spot. I felt good in the water, the race was always going to be hard without any of the men who have already pre-qualified to help set the pace, this and the fact it was in a wetsuit meant I always knew it was going to come down to the sprint."
Loughborough National Centre swimmer Robinson closed out in a photo finish with Athanasios Kynigakis for the further podium positions, having swam a highly impressive race.
With just over a month now until the Olympic Games, Pardoe will join Dearing in being nominated to TeamGB, who will confirm official selection for the Marathon Swimming events in the coming week.
Find full results from Setubal HERE, with playback of both races available on the FINA YouTube Channel.