x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

World Junior Championships: Rebecca Mann happy to mix it up in the pool

American 10 seconds off personal best but open-water specialist still delighted to pick up 1,500m gold.

The United States’ Rebecca Mann on her way to victory in the 1,500-metres freestyle at Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex.
The United States’ Rebecca Mann on her way to victory in the 1,500-metres freestyle at Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex.

DUBAI // Rebecca Mann was only 10 when she swam across the 14.2-kilometre Maui Channel in Hawaii. Since then, she has done the Waikiki Roughwater Swim and was the winner of the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships 10km race.

Last month, the 15-year-old phenomenon from Florida represented the United States at the World Aquatics Championships in the 5km and 10km after finishing second in those events at the national open-water championships.

Given her impressive resume, a 1,500-metre race in the pool might seem a lazy, afternoon swim. Or child's play. And it probably was. Mann (16 minutes, 23.89 seconds) was more than 10 seconds behind her personal best, but she still finished close to 10 seconds ahead of Linda Caponi (16:33.62). If she had gone any faster, the American might have lapped a couple of the competitors.

And if Mann had swam anywhere close to her personal best, she would have erased Tjasa Oder's championship mark of 16:18.63 from the record books.

The youngster conceded being disappointed about missing out. "I was a bit upset about that," she said. "But it was still a great swim and I am still very happy with it."

Mann's main focus this year had been on open-water swimming, so her slower times in the pool are understandable.

"I usually focus on the pool a lot more, but this summer I was totally focusing on open water," said Mann, who earlier had won silver in the 400m individual medley and the 800m freestyle. "So I am just kind of transitioning back into the pool right now.

"The World Championships, it was a really great experience. I learnt so much from the open water. I was really excited I got to represent my country at the Worlds and here at the Junior Worlds."

She said open water and the pool are quite difference, but added one is not easier than the other. "It's just a different mindset, a different focus. Here, the events are shorter, so you have to go fast all the time. In the open water, there's a lot of strategy and then there are lots of other things like physical contacts."

Much travel is involved, too. Mann, who swims two-and-a-half to four hours each day, has competed in Europe, North America and Asia in the past month.

While Mann missed out on a record, her teammate, Joseph Bentz, did not, improving on his preliminaries time by almost nine seconds to win the boys' 400m individual medley in 4:14.97.

The previous mark was 4:15.64, set by Maksym Shemberev two years ago. The Russian girls' 4x100m relay team of Maria Baklakova, Yuliya Nasretdinova, Valeriia Kolotushkina, and Daria Ustinova also rewrote the record books, improving the championship mark from 3:42.85 to 3:41.40.

Three other championship marks were broken on the day. Russia's Svetlana Chimrova, who took the 50m butterfly gold on Thursday night, improved the 100m butterfly record twice - clocking 59.30 in the preliminaries before bettering it with a 58.75 in the semi-finals.

Ruta Meilutyte's girls' 50m freestyle mark of 25.19 lasted only a few minutes as the Russian Rozaliya Nasretdinova improved on it with a swim of 25.02 in the second semi-final.

In the boys' 50m breaststroke prelims, Slovenia's Peter Stevens broke the championship record with a time of 27.74.

arizvi@thenational.ae