Len Catling/UBC Thunderbirds
LAC ST. JEAN, Que. – A bronze medal at a world class FINA 10K Open Water World Cup race is impressive enough, but considering Thursday's race was UBC Thunderbird Hau-Li Fan's fourth-ever competitive swim in the discipline makes his story downright remarkable.
Fan, who trained in 2016 with Canadian Olympic open water swimmer Richard Weinberger, decided to take on the event more or less to get experience in a 10-km distance, as he had only ever raced four-km and six-km events. By the time the race at Lac St. Jean was completed he found himself in third place, behind only Italians Simone Ruffini and Federico Vanelli, both who have world championship medals on their resumes.
"I'm just as surprised as anyone else," said Fan post-race. "My goal was to just finish the race, because I'd never raced ten kilometres before. Maybe be in a fight for top ten at the most."
Fan used a late race kick to pass a number of swimmers and reach the podium.
"I came up the last buoy, about six hundred merges from the finish line and decided I was going to go for it," he explained. "But then I got tired and really slowed down. I drafted for a bit and then went for it again, and managed to get into the top three."
Fan's UBC coach Steve Price believes the result establishes the Burnaby, B.C., native as a future force in open water swimming.
"What a great story this is for Hau-Li to finish on the podium in his first ever World Cup race. He raced at a couple of local races in the four-kilometre and six-kilometre distances and got the bug for the sport," said Price. "This summer he wanted to give the real deal a go and we couldn't have asked for a better start against some seasoned veterans from around the world. Lots of these guys just raced in Hungary at the World Aquatic Championships with some world medalists in the field. As the top Canadian, this sets his up well for a bright future both in the pool and in open water."
Next up for Fan will be is the Canadian Swimming Championships in Montreal, August 4-7, where he will try to replicate his great open water performance in the pool.
PHOTO CREDIT: Don Voaklander/University of Alberta