BUDAPEST, Hungary – Duke alumna Ashley Twichell captured the first gold medal for the United States at the 2017 FINA World Aquatic Championships Wednesday, besting the field in the women’s open water five-kilometer race at Lake Balaton.
With her 5K victory, the 2011 Duke graduate became the first American woman to capture three FINA World Championships medals in open water swimming. She won bronze in the 5K and gold in the team pursuit event in 2011.
After opening the race in the lead pack Wednesday, Twichell pulled in front of France’s Aurelie Muller with about 700 meters remaining and never relinquished her lead. Twichell turned in a time of 59:07.0, followed by Muller in second (59:10.5) and Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha in third (59:11.4).
“Having drafted for the first bit, I felt like I had something left,” Twichell said. “I didn’t feel like I used up everything, so that last straightaway I tried to bring in the legs, which I typically don’t use. I really didn’t know how far behind me anyone was, so I didn’t want to look back and waste any time. I just tried to put my head down as much as I could and go as hard as I could those last 240 meters.”
Twichell’s gold medal performance came three days after she finished 10th in the open water 10K in Budapest.
“I didn’t feel awesome during the 10K, so I took the two days in between to really try to recover and get my mind back straight,” she said. “I medaled in 2011 and didn’t medal in 2015, so definitely the goal here was to get on the podium. I’m really excited to get on the podium for the United States.”
At Duke, Twichell was an All-American and ACC champion in the 1,650-yard freestyle.
The FINA World Aquatic Championships continue through Sunday, July 30 in Budapest. Current Blue Devil Isabella Paez will take to the pool next week, swimming for Venezuela in the women’s 100 and 200-meter butterfly events.