Oussama Mellouli To Defend Marathon Crown As He Lands Rio Ticket To 5th Games

Oussama Mellouli on deck with coach Jon Urbanchek by Patrick B. Kraemer

Oussama Mellouli (TUN) will defend the Olympic marathon crown after a fifth-place finish in the 10km last-chance-saloon qualification race off the Portuguese coast at Setúbal. A fifth Olympics ahoy

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Oussama Mellouli (TUN) will defend the Olympic marathon crown after a fifth-place finish in the 10km last-chance-saloon qualification race off the Portuguese coast at Setúbal. A fifth Olympics ahoy



So Charlotte Webby (NZL) and Kane Rae Francis Radford (NZL) get to go to Rio to represent Oceania, while there are Australians who were much faster and finished far ahead of them in the qualification meet didn’t get to go?

I’m sorry but this is so F’ed up. And why did Australia (or any other countries with fastest open water swimmers) even bothered sending more than one swimmer to this meet?


It seems these Olympics selection process were purposefully designed by FINA members to get votes from national federations.


ASF, the IOC has chosen to limit the field to 25 for both genders and it is one per nation and that means everyone including the US.

And furthermore, this meet was the “last chance saloon” for selection for nations who did NOT have finishers in the top10 at last year’s Worlds. So what you were seeing in these races were either those who missed Kazan for some reasons …… and the “also rans”.

Craig Lord

Yes, indeed, asf.

Craig Lord

CW, its a bit more than ‘also rans’ … extends beyond that… and is still skewed against having the best possible line up: that’s the point that’s being made – and I think it a good point. If it was 25 men and 25 women, then why not go for the best 24 2 per nation to reflect what happens in the pool – and have a hosts wild card if they don’t get 2 past the post. In a limited field, the universality ticket is all the more obviously hurtful to world-class swimmers left home when on a given day in very different environmental circumstances might well have been close to podium or even on it, particularly in tight races, which, one assumes, is what the OG and its spectators want.

kevin roose

Good to see the Aussies qualify one swimmer in each gender lets hope the water they swim in wont effect health long term .
Getting spots to compete at the Olympics for the Aussies is not as easy as first thought . With only qualifying 2 weight lifters , 3 boxers and 1 artistic gymnist for example Australian Olympic Federation has down graded its anticipated size from 450 athletes to just over 400.


It’s not accurate. Each country can qualify TWO per gender, BUT ONLY IF both of them finished in the top 10 in Kazan. Example: Brazil is the only country in the women 10 k that qualifies two swimmers since they finished in the top in Kazan (Ana Marcela 3rd, and Poliana 6th).
And if the second swimmer of a country finished at 11th in Kazan, then bad luck. There’s no second chance for them. Case in point: Becca Mann.

Another point of this system that is difficult to accept is the “continental” spot which goes to someone from a country not yet represented by a swimmer. Why not just the next fastest swimmer from that continent, even if the country already has 1 swimmer qualified.


My point re “also rans” is not necessarily an aspersion against those who have qualified this weekend but more a response to ASF’s contention that some Aussies are somehow being deprived.

Worthy as these competitors may be, the bulk of those who have qualified via this “last chance saloon” are those who failed to make the cut at last year’s Worlds. One per nation may seem harsh but all competitors knew these were the conditions set down.

Craig Lord

Knowing something is so does not make it right. We knew that there would be night swimming in Rio … doesn’t make it right. Dr Kipke knew that the stuff he was pumping into teenage girls was likely to damage their health; didn’t make it right. An extreme example but I’m sure you know what I mean, CW. The fact is, as asf, pointed out, the process is an ass.

Oliver Kramer

Mellouli swimming in Rio, of course. Another race, another cheat? Really kind of frustrating.


I wouldn’t call swimmers like Becca Mann as an also-ran. She won 10k gold in 2012 junior pan pacs, 8th in 10k 2013 worlds, finished first in 10k 2015 US Nationals.

If swimmers like Becca Mann is an also-ran, then so is everyone else bar Olympics and world championships medallists. And if also-rans are not supposed to swim in Olympics, then Olympics open water events should just have 3 participants to ensure that there’s no also-ran.


With respect, for the most part I disagree. I’d be happy to get rid of requirement for continental representation but I would do that across the board with most sports where it is apparent the level of any representatives from that region are patently uncompetitive.

Putting aside conjecture of what may/may not go wrong in Rio, the Olympics are ridiculously bloated and will most likely need to contract considerably in size to survive even medium term.

As for the open water Aussies, the fact is that they do not warrant extra numbers. They didn’t cut the mustard when there was the chance of snagging extra places and have required a “2nd take” to even clinch the deal for one per gender.


This Rio Olympics will have the most swimmers who have tested positive for banned substances and banned for it.


I understand (though I’m not 100% sure) that the american swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky qualified for the 10K open water race. Would anyone know if Mr. Wilimovsky will be competing in the pool trials for 1500m? I saw the video of his race against Mr. McBroom and others in one of the (relatively) recent weekend Arena (?) meets, and I really liked his performance. His racing reminded me of both Mr. Cochrane and Mr. Paltrinieri: his swimming style is more alike Mr. Cochrane’s, but the strategy is more like Mr. Paltrinieri’s: start hard and finish even harder. Not sure he’s at medal level (like Sun Yang, Gregorio Paltrinieri, Ryan Cochrane, Connor Jaeger, Mac Horton, and others), but I would guess he can be at the level of Gabrielle Detti and Jack McLoughlin.

Craig Lord

With respect, then make it the best 12 men and women and have done with it. Otherwise, it is more of the ‘I’m an Olympian’ when others much better never get to say that. I don’t think that good, regardless of the few arguments for universality beyond political scratching of backs. When a development swimmer from Nigeria gets to swim at the Games it is obvious to all that there is a different status in that “I’m an Olympian’. Much more difficult for any discernment on that score when those qualifying are not development but neither are they among the top 25 best two per nation, the count of which includes several people locked out both men and women. If your Aussie’s don’t cut the mustard, CW, you must surely admit that there will be those racing that day in Rio who clearly cut the mustard far less. When swimmers who place 31st and 32nd six mins off the pace at the last-chance saloon get to make the cut for Rio, the process is flawed.

Craig Lord

Oliver, I hear what you say. I also note, as someone vehemently opposed to cheating and doping, that Mellouli is the very least of swimming’s comeback problems given the details of his case, which, of course, are denied to the public because FINA has removed the files from the public domain, leaving all who ever tested positive for anything lumped in the club of ‘cheats’ with no chance of anyone cross-referencing the deeper case files.

Kelsey Huebner

Whilst I agree the process is flawed.. Karena Lee not getting a swim cause she’s the 2nd Aussie and placing 7th is a joke I don’t think you can argue she’s an also ran just because she’s not a Ledecky or a Franklin etc. there are always upsets and favourites can be beaten .. Susie O’Neill anyone?. But for people to say also rans etc can’t compete just because they qualify in a lesser nation/less competitive sport etc is wrong the Olympic movement is about sport without discrimination of any kind, with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The Olympics are not just made on moments like Phelps but those like Eddie the Eel. That’s what Pierre de Coubertin based the Olympics on and who are we to sit here and cut people or their performances down.

Kim Simonsen

Should there not be a * attached to Mellouli – did CAS not issue a 18 month ban in 2007?

Barnabas Mandi


Anna Olasz was the 11th in Kazan, 3.6 seconds behind Eva Risztov. Eva will be in Rio, Anna will be at home 🙁 Becca Mann was 14th.

Craig Lord

The * is there and has been since launch, Kim

Craig Lord

Precisely – silly.


Hang on a minute “aswimfan”, referring to your first post:

Firstly, Swimming New Zealand have NOT confirmed selection of either Radford or Webby, despite being awarded the Oceania places. All that they have said publicly is both of them have missed the direct qualification standard. That’s it. Period. Even Swimming Australia’s criteria stated that a swimmer could earn either direct qualification or a continental place. So if the Aussies didn’t come in the top 10 and Poort for example, came in 11th and took the Oceania place, would you still feel the same?

Now bear in mind that SNZ have form when it comes to selection criteria being vague and ludicrous, and this year is no exception. They didn’t take up a continental place in 2012, and certainly Radford had to go to a Sports Tribunal in 2008, which he lost on a technicality (and a few porkies by SNZ). All it says as it relates to this meet is that nomination for Open Water selection to Rio will be based on “performances and results”. Whether that is deliberately vague is anyone’s guess, but the overriding criteria for selection of Pool and Open Water is that a swimmer has the potential of achieving a top 16 placing at the Olympics, and have “a track record of sufficient quality and depth that [they] … will be competitive at the Games and will perform credibly …” Fair enough. And therein lies the selectors’ wriggle room and backroom discussions, I’m sure, before the deadline for SNZ Open Water nominations to the NZOC which is in a few day’s time. Certainly if Radford does not get the nod I guarantee it will end up in another Sports Tribunal hearing.

Secondly, the fact that there were two Aussies in the last-chance meet means they, like everyone else, didn’t make top 10 last year and therefore were only going to be able to potentially qualify one swimmer. And I agree, the whole universality principle is seriously flawed, but I will take strong exception to your suggestion that someone like Kane Radford of NZL is not deserving of a shot at Rio, or that he is not of the class of the Aussies. (I will address Charlotte Webby further in this post).

The Aussies, Poort and Huitenga were NOT “much faster and finished far ahead” of Radford. It was like 28 secs adrift of Poort and 24 secs from Huitenga, and 34 secs off the winner Zu. And frankly, anyone finishing within a minute of the winner in a race that lasts for 1 hour 55 minutes is most certainly not an “also-ran”. Kane Radford has been competing as an elite Open Water swimmer for a long time and has a great record. He trains in Perth, I believe with Poort (and Hirai from Japan who got through). He should have been there in 2008, had a horrible race in the 2012 selection meet, and was going to pack it in. Frankly, out of the whole NZ team, he would deserve it the most.

The great thing about Open Water and why it is such an exciting event is that anyone on the day can win it. The only thing that Pool and Open Water have in common is that the race is in water. So we need to stop applying pool mentality to Open Water because it is such a vastly different event. And if we were to apply SNZ’s overriding nomination criteria of being capable of finishing in the top 16 in Rio, then out of 24 starters in Open Water, Kane Radford most certainly is capable of being top 10.

Thirdly, you mention Charlotte Webby. Unfortunately, I totally agree. She was something like 5 minutes adrift of the winner Xin and 4 mins from 9th place. In my opinion she would be just making up the numbers. She isn’t the calibre of Cara Baker from NZ who missed out on an automatic place in 2012 by 2 secs, got the Oceania nod, but SNZ wouldn’t send her.

And so if universality and the continental principle is here to stay, I would suggest that in order to preserve integrity that there be a proviso that a continental place must meet a time differential, for example, being within 1 minute of the winner. Then you will be getting something close to the top 24 swimmers in the world. If pool events at the Olympics persist with 2 per nation, ‘B’ qualifying times, and universality places, then there has to be something remotely similar in Open Water.

Craig Lord

Good suggestion that last one, h2tk.



You wrote all those paragraphs and yet completely missed my point.

I clearly and literally stated:
Continental representatives should be the NEXT FASTEST swimmers, regardless of countries.

I the placings of f Australia and New Zealand’s swimmers I would have said the exact same thing.

This whole continental representatives things is big BS. Why not just rename it *representatives from countries that have yet to qualify a swimmer”, that would have been more accurate.

You brpught up a possibility that illustrates this ridicules situation more starkly:
If NZ declines the two continental spots, then who:s gonna fill in the spots? Some swimmers from Fiji, PNG?


By the way,

I agree with your last paragraph on the idea.
And despite you claiming that in open water, and swimmer can win on any day, I still find it hard to believe that Reem Kareem would beat Becca Mann or Anna Olas who I didn’t get to swim open water I’m Rio.


I the placings of f Australia and New Zealand’s swimmers ARE REVERSED I would have said the exact same thing.



I agree with your sentiments, if not some of your specific examples. If we are saddled with these convoluted rules, and I’m not saying that I totally agree with them, but giving a nation the opportunity of qualifying two in the last-chance meet would not be fair either to those who only qualified one last year thereby prevented from fielding any swimmers in Portugal, given the present rules. Case in point, the US with only one qualified last year therefore couldn’t send Becca Mann to compete for the Americas place which went to the Canadian swimmer Horner. I do agree that it should be next fastest swimmers from countries that have yet to qualify a swimmer, if they are intent on making up 24 swimmers.

And no, Kareem should not be there, I agree.

And as far as continental places not being ratified by an NOC, you are right, it just makes it farcical.

But I won’t apologise for writing long paragraphs. At least you read it all – most wouldn’t bother.

Craig Lord

h2tk, long paragraphs are fine. Anyone who doesn’t feel able, capable or willing, need only look away 🙂

Felix Sanchez

Kelsey Huebner,

I think we can, and should, be a bit more discerning than make the leap from Phelps moments to Eric the Eel moments. I know some people loved that moment, but personally I found it to be a not very funny joke. It’s unnecessarily emotive to talk of ‘sport without discrimination of any kind’ – and surely if anyone is being discriminated against it’s the world class athletes who miss out from extremely stiff domestic competition. There is certainly a place for softer qualifying for developing nations, but an Olympic place to guy who’d get scorched by little kids all over the world isn’t developing or representing anything.

Craig Lord

I speak only for myself but my work also represents the people who have no voice but happen to come from nations that put serious money into sport and end up with two swimmers in the world top 12 in event x but still find that not good enough to make a top 25 that includes people who wouldn’t make the top 50 or more on an average day out on the wave. Kelsey, if the Olympics is about representation, hen let it be that and include 150 swimmers in the marathon (TV dot want that, neither does the IOC – and so the compromise is a nod to elite and a nod to representation which leaves a group of world-class athletes locked out. That’s my issue and I speak on that for the many fine swimmers it applies to, the many who will sit home this summer watching the Games on TV and knowing they might have made a top 10 at the O Games – and even a podium – had the qualification process been fairer and more representative of elite sport. I think your spot on with your point on Lee and the likes.

Craig Lord

Indeed, Felix. As the man who gave Eric his Eel, I can honestly say that it wasn’t funny at the time (nor since) – it was worrying, painful to watch and a poor reflection of what the Olympic Games is about. Your last point is how I feel, too.


I do wish Eric’s federation had let him come back for a second Olympic Games because he’d actually been able to do some training at that point and had managed to break a minute in the 100 free. (But then I’m admittedly more of a softie for the universailty swimmers than many here.)

As for SNZ, they actually turned down a spot for Kane Radford in the 2012open water Olympic field because they felt like he wasn’t top ten material at the time, and that spot rolled down to Ben Schulte of Guam. Hopefully they’ll allow Radford to go to Rio this time.

Open water reminds me of the sprint finish cycling races where any athlete with decent finishing speed who’s with the main pack with five minutes to go before the finish has a chance at a podium spot.

Cleo Copsey

The selection criteria total rubbish – always has been. But who is going to do anything about it?
Re the New Zealand swimmers. Charlotte webby – no chance. And after a finish in the 40s at Kazan why did Swimming NZ even allow her to swim at this meet? When their sole focus in only allowing people to compete if they have potential for top ten/top 16 finishes.
Re Kane and his potential. Where did he finish in Kazan? Where has he ever finished in World Champs or World Cup swims? Being in the same minute as the winner doesnt really mean much when thats all you have ever done but never managed to get any closer to the winner than about twenty places away. That does not suggest potential to me after all the years of chances.
And if Swimming NZ decide to allow Kane to take his Oceania spot (heaven forbid surely they arent so stupid to allow Charlotte to take hers), there very well could be hell to pay given that they denied Cara Baker to chance to take up hers four years ago. Cara was someone who truly did have potential – hell she had podiumed in World Cup races.
Oh and finally, has anyone looked at the NZ Open Water Selectors and their backgrounds? Conflict of Interest anyone????


Cleo Copsey, oh dear!

As it relates to Charlotte Webby, I agree, she is not a Cara Baker.

But as it relates to Kane Radford, I think you will find that he medalled at Pan Pacs a few years ago in Hawaii? Without trawling through results it is fair to suggest that medalling at Pan Pacs is not to be sniffed at.

I think placings alone in Open Water are meaningless without looking at the race as a whole – where were they in relation to the leading pack, the tactics, lap splits particularly the last few laps, etc. The pace that the 10km is now swum at is blistering and the splits over the last lap are incredible and where many of the 1500m specialists are making a mark.

This is where, I think, Radford will struggle. He always seems to be in the leading pack, and while he does have a very good kick, the pace of the last lap just kills him. However, I think his physicality has improved and he is much stronger and tougher than when he was first on the Open Water circuit as a Junior World Champs competitor. Open Water is not a precocious sport (in fact, swimming in general) and he is an example, in my view, of a swimmer that has become more competitive as he has matured. Of course, his move to Perth to train with a similar class of athlete has made the world of difference.

As a side note, SNZ have only announced that they are considering the nominations of both Webby and Radford. They have to be satisfied that they “show evidence of an ability to finish in the top 16, with a potential for a top eight placing in Rio.” I think on that basis, that Radford only should get the nod.

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