Team USA Shines In Open Water Swimming; Cunha, Ruffini Win 25K Gold
Marcela Cunha

Team USA Shines In Open Water Swimming; Cunha, Ruffini Win 25K Gold

Cunha, who trains in South Florida  wins


By Sharon Robb

August 1, 2015—Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha won the women’s 25K title on Saturday at the XVI FINA World Championships.

Cunha, trailing by a second headed into the tenth and final lap, overtook leader Anna Olasz of Hungary to win in 5 hours, 13:47minutes.

“I am very happy winning, everything came together,” Cunha said. “In Barcelona I won bronze, silver and fifth place. I finally won gold.

“My coach and I knew the last part would be the most difficult,” said Cunha, who dyed the sides of her head purple. “We trained a lot and fortunately it paid off.”

Cunha has trained in South Florida and won several local races including the 2013 ISHOF Fort Lauderdale Rough Water race.

Cunha finished third in the 10K event to take the bronze and qualify for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

Olasz, who Cunha embraced after the race, held on for second in 5:14:13. Germany’s Angela Maurer finished third in 5:15:07. Aurelie Muller of France, the 10K winner, was fourth in 5:16:07.

U.S. teammates Emily Brunemann was eighth in 5:19:51 and Ashley Twichell was ninth in5:20:20.

In the men’s 25K competition, Italian Simone Ruffini just edged American Alex Meyer in the finish chute to win the gold medal.

Ruffini, only the third Italian to win a world title, finished in 4:53:10. Early in the race Ruffini had stomach problems but shook them off.

“In the beginning it was difficult to race because of stomach pain, I vomited twice and was nauseous but my doctor solved the problem,” Ruffini told reporters. “In the second part of the race I felt better and I knew I needed to swim faster. Meyer is a great swimmer but today I had more power to win.”

During the medals ceremony Ruffini proposed to his girlfriend and Italian teammate Aurora Ponsele. Ruffini wrote in a note in Italian that translated “Will You Marry Me?’ that he unveiled during the ceremony. His future wife signaled back with two fingers in the shape of a heart.

Meyer’s second place in 4:53:15.1 clinched the highest overall open water team score for Team USA. After the seven-race open water competition, the U.S. open water swimmers won their first team title since 1991.

Meyer was 25th at the 10K mark but started reeling

in swimmers late in the race. He led the Italians going into the final lap but Ruffini had more in the tank down the stretch to win.

“I’m overall very happy with this race, there were a lot of ups and downs both physically and mentally,” Meyer said. “I was back pretty far at one point but was able to pull back up to the front. I would have liked to pass Simone in the last little bit, but I gave it everything I had.”

Italy’s Matteo Furlan took the bronze in4:54:38. American David Herron was tenth in5:00:11.

The U.S. team finished with 108 points. Italy finished second with 99 and Germany was third with 94. Meyer’s medal was the third for the U.S. Haley Anderson won the 5K and Jordan Wilimovsky took gold in the 10K.

Germany won the Team 5K event earlier in the week. Brazil, just 17 seconds behind, took the silver medal with Cunha, Allan do Carmo and Diogo Villarinho.

Brazilian Coach First Casualty

Brazilian open water coach Eduardo Santos has a broken arm and cut knee as the result of a bad fall in the Athletes’ Village. He was treated at the village hospital and was diagnosed with a fractured humerus. Santos was scheduled to return to Brazil on Saturday for surgery. Santos coaches Villarinho.

Sharon Robb can be reached at



Florida Swim Network