- 20 Aug 08, 12:10 PM
Open water swimming took its bow at the Olympics today - and what a debut it was!
The 10k race had everything from controversy to a fantastic sprint finish - and two more medals for Britain thanks to Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten.
I really had my eyes opened to what a tough physical battle it is.
The girls were getting bashed and kicked in the face - and by no means always by accident.
There was a lot of physical contact - but that made it all the more fascinating to watch. It was clear to me that Cassie Patten was pulled back by the German swimmer Angela Maurer with about 150m to go.
That not only slowed Cassie down, but it allowed Larisa Ilchenko to get ahead, and the Russian went on to win.
I'm not saying that definitely deprived Cassie of gold - Ilchenko has more experience and she had not lost on the world stage since 2004.
But neither Cassie not the Russian were happy - there were a lot of dirty tactics out there. Ilchenko played the game and won.
She stuck behind the leaders and then struck in the final stretch. And it wasn't her who pulled Cassie back. In fact she felt hard done by the aggro too.
Afterwards she said: "I had to clash on numerous occasions. I was trying to break away from the Brazilians, they were quite aggressive, sometimes bordering on unsportsmanlike. This is swimming after all, not boxing."
But that's all part of the attraction of the event - there is a rule book (believe it or not) which states there should to be no physical contact - but no-one seems to take much notice!
The rules state that a swimmer can be yellow carded for interfering with another competitor - a whistle is blown, a card is shown and the swimmer has to acknowledge it before carrying on. If they get another one, they're out.
But maybe with a bit more experience we could have grasped the gold?
There were loads of cards flying about, yellow and red - it really was everyone for themselves.But neither of our girls got carded.
Maybe had we played the race in a bit less of a true British gentlemanly fashion, and played it a bit dirty, Cassie and Keri-Anne could have worked together to block the Russian out.
But as it is, a silver and a bronze medal was still a fairytale finish.And what a finish it was.
After almost two hours of swimming the three of them were swimming flat out for the line matching each other stroke for stroke.By the time they crossed there was just a few seconds between them.
Most people will not appreciate how much that race will have taken out of the girls.
It is two hours of swimming flat out.
You use up so many calories you can't swim that far at that pace without taking on food and water.
So during the race, officials hold out poles with baskets containing food and water, which the girls consume while flipped over on their backs.
It can lose you valuable time - but you can't do without it, especially water - the swimmers can get dehydrated even though they are surrounded by the stuff!
I thought the girls got their tactics just right here.
In order to cut down the time they spent on these transitions, they were carbo-loading for three days beforehand - and Cassie was even drinking lake water during the race, she was so determined not to stop.
It meant they didn't have to slow down for very long and that could stay out in front - a good idea because if the pack had caught them they'd have swum right over them!
Steve Parry was talking to BBC Sport's Claire Stocks
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