A young team of British athletes gained valuable experience against Olympic medallists at the LEN Open Water Cup leg in Piombino, Italy over the weekend.
Eight junior swimmers - who were initially selected for July's European Junior Open Water Championships in Paris but did not compete due to COVID restrictions - were part of the 10km event on Sunday. All eight were born in 2002 or later, showing the priceless development opportunity that this competition could provide in a marathon swimming environment.
Ella Dyson of Wycombe District Swimming Club registered the best British result of the meet, placing 21st in the women's race, barely two minutes off winner Giulia Gabrielleschi of Italy, in a contest lasting more than two hours. Behind Ella were Amelia Rodd (30th), Aimee Hood (35th) and Lucy Fox (39th).
In the men's event, Alexander Cooper - another from the Wycombe District cohort - was the best-placed Brit in 35th. Isaac Dodds was 40th, while Joshua Weston and Charlie Hutchison also competed in a race featuring two of the three medallists from the Olympic event at Tokyo 2020.
Speaking on the importance of such event experience for this fledgling team, British Swimming Marathon Lead Bernie Dietzig said: "We have some very young swimmers in this group who would've been competing in their age categories at European Juniors, whereas this alternative race opportunity at the LEN Cup was in an open event.
"It was a big test for them in strong, senior fields, but they've all done well. Ella Dyson was the best finish, she had a really good swim.
"This was all about the experience for the team, to see how they get on with it. Obviously when they move forward from here, they will still be in their age groups for a while yet, where they will look to finish higher.
"Everyone had a great experience, everyone had great races. The conditions were perfect, and our athletes got the chance to swim with a high-quality field. The silver and bronze medallists from the Olympics were in the men's race, and the women's side was strong too."