Dutch star Van Dijk ends career on high note

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2005, 12:00am

With friends and family cheering on, Edith van Dijk ended 16 years of top-class competition just the way she wanted - on the podium.

Van Dijk finished second in the women's race in yesterday's Fina Marathon World Cup off the waters of Repulse Bay to signal the end of an era in open-water swimming.

The 32-year-old Dutch athlete had no regrets as she came out of the water after the arduous swim in hot and humid conditions to complete her last race at the highest level. 'I'm very happy to have finished in the top three again. The conditions were hard and it was a pretty hard swim. We swam very close together in the 10km race. It was fun. It was my last race,' said Van Dijk, who retires from swimming to pursue other interests.

Van Dijk has won six gold medals at the World Championships and three World Cup triumphs.

Among those to greet her at the finish yesterday was her husband Hans van Goor and her parents, who flew in from Amsterdam to witness their daughter's swansong. 'It was a very special moment for me,' said Van Goor. '

We only realised that she was going to have her last swim on Wednesday. To take second place in the women's race is a special result. You always hope to win but she was competing against some very good swimmers.'

Van Dijk finished second behind race winner, Britta Kamrau-Corestein of Germany, who touched the board in a winning time of two hours, six minutes and 56.84 seconds. Van Dijk clocked 2:07.00.01, while Russia's Larisa Ilchenko was third in 2:07.00.64.

'I tried very hard to win the race, but Britta was too strong in the end. I tried to get closer to the leaders but with about 600 metres left, Britta took off and I couldn't catch up with her. Before that, I was fifth or sixth in the race,' said Van Dijk, who won this year's World Cup series after building an unassailable lead.

She also won an additional US$2,300 in prize money for finishing second in the race.

'This is the second time I have raced in Hong Kong. Last year, I was third in the women's race and conditions were more or less than same as it was today.'

The men's race finished with some controversy with Yuri Kudino of Russia claiming second place ahead of Stephane Gomez of France even though he was beaten to the line by the Frenchman.

Kudino touched the finish board before Gomez, registering a time of 1:58.02.53 to Gomez's 1:58.03.17.

The race was won by the Czech Republic's Jakub Fichtl in 1:57.58.93.

'You must touch the board in order to count. That's the rule,' said Ronnie Wong, chairman of the organising committee after reviewing the video footage of the race.

Conditions made it hard for swimmers to make fast times as the heat and humidity took its toll and the sea was choppy.