The Marathon Swim is one of the most gruelling events on the schedule, but Algeria’s Souad Nefissa Cherouati refused to be beaten by the 10km distance.
Gold medal glory went to Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha, but the Games are about more than just winning and Cherouati’s effort embodied the spirit of the Olympics.
She was cast adrift by the other 24 competitors fairly early in the race, but simply refused to quit.
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Cunha slapped the pad to stop the clock in a time of 1:59:30.8, and was in all probability doing her warm down and speaking to the media while Cherouati was still in the water.
But Cherouati was not alone, as officials, helpers and supporters were there to provide her with encouragement in the final stages of the race.
James Parrack, on Eurosport commentary, said: “She will come into the final funneling system and it will then be a very relieved swimmer who will touch the pad and can then get some feed and enjoy the medal celebration and receive congratulations and give the congratulations.”
In the final stages, the support for Cherouati was audible.
“A round of applause from the officials and the referees,” Parrack said. “It is nice to see. It makes her feel she is not on her own. She will be able to see and hear the encouragement.”
After stopping the clock, a mix of relief, delight and exhaustion appeared to cross Cherouati’s face.
Parrack’s co-commentator Nicole Livingstone summed up the mood by saying: “Wow. Well done, that took some resilience to get through that.”
For the record, Cherouati stopped the clock in a time of 2:17:21.6, almost 18 minutes behind the winner.
The record will also show that the Algerian is an Olympian.
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