Soldier Cleri wins open-water battle

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 September, 2008, 12:00am

Things are looking up for Roman Valerio Cleri. In a couple of months, he expects to be promoted from corporal to sergeant in the Italian army. And yesterday, he moved closer to clinching the Fina Marathon Swimming World Cup by winning the Hong Kong leg at Repulse Bay.

Cleri, who was the defending champion, narrowly won the 10-kilometre open-water race, warding off a stiff challenge from Russian Daniil Serebrennikov. His winning time was one hour, 46 minutes and 17.06 seconds, just one second ahead of Serebrennikov. Brazil's Allan Carmo was third. 'It was close. Winning this race is important to me because my goal this year is to win the World Cup. There is big money for the winner,' the 27-year-old Cleri said.

In the women's race, Beijing Olympic gold medallist Larisa Ilchenko of Russia claimed the top spot in 1:52:15.02. In second place, three seconds behind, was Chile's Kristel Kobrich while Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha took third.

Cleri's win cemented his position at the top of the World Cup standings as second-placed Yuri Kudinov of Russia and third-placed Maze Aziz of Egypt finished fifth and fourth respectively.

The Italian is seeking to win the overall title to make up for his disappointment at the Olympics where he just missed out on a medal finishing fourth.

'A lot of swimmers did not turn up in Hong Kong this year because it has been a hectic schedule with the Olympics and the European Championships. But I like Hong Kong, it is a beautiful city and I like coming here. And like I said, winning the World Cup is important to me,' Cleri said.

The Hong Kong victory is the fourth for Cleri this season. he also won in Brazil, Portugal and last week in Shantou, China. Last year, in his first attempt at the World Cup, Cleri finished second.

'Although I didn't get a medal in the Olympics, it has been a good year for me so far. I have won four races and I'm number one in the standings. Also when I go back to my country, I will soon be promoted to sergeant in the army,' Cleri said.

Ilchenko turned the tables and avenged her loss to Kobrich in Shantou. The Volgograd native dominated a strong field in perfect conditions at Repulse Bay.

Hong Kong's best finisher in the women's event was Natasha Tang Wing-yung who was placed 11th in 1:57:40,09. In the men's race Ling Tin-yu was the highest-ranked domestic swimmer coming in ninth in 1:53:14.08.