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Payne, Lurz win 10K open water race

KERI-ANNE Payne of Britain pushed a few competitors out of her way en route to the gold medal in the 10-kilometer open water race at the world championships in Rome yesterday.

Olympic champion Larisa Ilchenko withdrew at the halfway mark with an injury.

Late yesterday, Germany's Thomas Lurz won the 10km in the men's event to complete an open water double here.

Lurz pulled away in the closing stages to finish in one hour 52 minutes and 6.9 seconds to claim his eighth career world title. He also won the 5km on Tuesday, and his third at 10km, following triumphs in 2004 and 2006.

Back at the Foro Italico, Spain performed a rockin' routine to Led Zeppelin and finally claimed gold in synchronized swimming, winning the free combination with Russia absent.

The Spaniards put together a high-energy routine that received scores ranging from 9.7 to 9.9 for a total of 98.333 points. China took the silver with 97.667 and Canada claimed bronze with 96.167.

The Spaniards fired the crowd up by performing to "Stairway to Heaven," even breaking out a little air guitar on another sweltering day in the Italian capital.

Spain had settled for silver in the first three events of synchronized swimming, each time behind Russia. But the sport's dominant nation didn't enter the free combination, finally providing a little drama.

Payne, the Olympic silver medalist, clocked 2 hours, 1 minute, 37.1 seconds in the sea off Rome's ancient port of Ostia. She was in the front for most of the race.

"There were a lot of girls that tried to take that lead spot, but I was having none of it," Payne said. "I think I may have pushed a few girls out of the way."

Ekaterina Seliverstova of Russia edged Martina Grimaldi of Italy in a sprint finish for the silver medal. Silverstova finished 0.9 seconds behind and Grimaldi was 1.5 back.

"I tried to fight for the silver but I was exhausted at the end," Grimaldi said.

Ilchenko, who was also the defending world champion in 10K, was brought ashore in a jet ski shortly after the 1-hour mark. Upon reaching the beach, the limping swimmer was accompanied by medical officials.

The Russian had cited the left-leg problem after winning the silver medal in Tuesday's 5K race, won by Melissa Gorman of Australia.

Gorman finished 29th yesterday.

Payne's gold came less than 24 hours after British diver Tom Daley won the 10-meter platform event, raising the host country's expectations for the 2012 London Olympics.

"There's always going to be pressure on me for London. But a lot can happen between now and then," Payne said.

The South African-born Payne sat out the 5K event to stay fresh.

"I knew the girls yesterday had such a hard 5K, so I was also a little more confident that they were going to be a bit more tired," said Payne, who will also swim the 200 and 400 individual medley events for Britain in the pool next week.


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