BARCELONA, Spain — American Haley Anderson and Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli won the 5K open water race Saturday at the world championships.
Anderson edged Poliana Okimoto of Brazil in a sprint finish in the Barcelona harbor. She finished in 56 minutes, 34.2 seconds, 0.02 ahead of Okimoto. Brazilian Ana Marcela Cunha finished third.
Mellouli clocked 53 minutes, 30.4 seconds. Eric Hedlin of Canada took silver, 1.2 seconds behind, and five-time world champion Thomas Lurz of Germany finished third.
Anderson set the pace in the first half of the race, which was held on a 2.5K L-shaped loop. Okimoto led most of the second half before she was overtaken by the American.
"The last stretch I wanted to keep drafting but pull up to the side of her," Anderson said. "I was kind of just waiting for the perfect moment to sprint ahead because you don't really know how much you have in you."
Anderson trains under Catherine Vogt at USC, and Vogt is the U.S. open water head coach for these championships.
"She wanted to be out front and be smooth and strong and have some good closing speed and she did exactly what we talked about," Vogt said. "She felt like she wanted to take advantage of her event here."
Anderson was on the U.S. team a few times with Fran Crippen, who died during a sweltering 10K race in the United Arab Emirates in October 2010.
"Fran taught us to be great competitors," Anderson said. "We all learned from Fran and take his memory with us to all open water competitions and live like he lived."
The course ran along the docks, giving spectators a good view of the race in sunny conditions in 75-degree water and air temperature of 86 degrees.
Once Mellouli accelerated, the race was effectively over for his rivals. The Tunisian surged ahead as soon as he got within the ropes outlining the finish area.
"I was hoping they wouldn't stay with me," Mellouli said. "Once I put the jets on I was able to take off, finish the race and take the win."
Including the open water worlds, Lurz had won the 5K title seven consecutive times, but he couldn't match Mellouli's sprinting.
"It's OK, I'm 33 years old and I started working again in January," Lurz said. "I knew in the last 50 meters I would not win. (Mellouli) swims the 100 free five seconds faster than me or more. This is the problem."
Mellouli won the 10K and took bronze in the 1,500-meter freestyle at last year's London Games to become the first swimmer to win medals in both the pool and open water at the same Olympics. And he won the 1,500 at the 2008 Beijing Games.
The 29-year-old Mellouli had planned to retire after the London Games but he changed his mind a couple of months later, and only began training again six months ago. "This year was supposed to be a year off for me," he said. "So to come back here after a solid two months of training and to be on top of the world is quite exciting for me."