OLYMPICS: SWIMMING

Tunisian adds open-water gold to haul

Fans cheer on winner Mellouli and last-place finisher from Guam
2012-08-11T00:00:00Z Tunisian adds open-water gold to haulThe Associated Press The Associated Press
August 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

LONDON - Pool or lake, it doesn't matter to Ous Mellouli. As long as there's water involved.

The Tunisian won the grueling 10-kilometer race at the London Games on Friday to become the first swimmer to win medals in both the pool and open water at the same Olympics.

Having earned bronze in the 1,500-meter freestyle last week, Mellouli pulled away from a small group of leaders in the fifth of six laps and won in 1 hour, 49 minutes 55.1 seconds in the murky waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

It was the second gold of Mellouli's Olympic career. He won the 1,500 at the 2008 Beijing Games.

"Nothing compares to this," Mellouli said. "There's no way I can top this achievement."

Mellouli overcame shoulder and elbow injuries before, as well as a virus two days ago. Now, he's considering retirement.

"Only those close to me know how much I struggled to get here today," Mellouli said. "I don't think there's a better way to go out than this. I can just leave it all behind and have no regrets."

He acknowledged the crowd and yelled as the gold was placed around his neck - marking Tunisia's first victory in London.

Tunisia has suffered unrest since the fall of autocratic leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 began the Arab Spring.

"I hope every Tunisian could share in my pride and joy," Mellouli said. "We definitely needed that."

Beijing bronze medalist Thomas Lurz of Germany took silver, 3.4 seconds behind, and Richard Weinberger of Canada was third, 5.2 seconds back.

Mellouli, who trains at USC, is new to open water swimming, but he also won the Olympic qualifier in Setubal, Portugal, in June.

Marathon races are usually contested in oceans or seas, where athletes face waves and currents - and more wildlife - making this race relatively tame, and allowing Mellouli to use his pool expertise.

"The conditions were definitely to my advantage," Mellouli said.

Alex Meyer of the United States finished 10th. Meyer had dedicated his swim to Fran Crippen, his friend and teammate who died in an open water race two years ago.

"The past couple of years have been pretty ... ," Meyer said, pausing, "well, uh, pretty lonely."

The fan favorite was Benjamin Schulte, a 16-year-old from Guam, who finished far behind all the other competitors. The crowd stuck around and applauded loudly when Schulte finally finished nearly 14 minutes after Mellouli.

"Around the second-to-last lap, I was just like, 'Man, I've still got two laps to go,'" he said. "I was already exhausted by that time."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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