Italians Triumph at the 69th La Traversée internationale du lac Saint-Jean in Challenging Conditions
La Traversée internationale du lac Saint-Jean has always presented a formidable challenge for the strongest swimmers worldwide. This year, it was very apparent with almost half of the participants succumbing to the race’s strenuous demands and withdrawing mid-route. The Italians stepped up, and thanks to a game plan, they distinguished themselves from the competition and seized the podium.
Francesco Ghettini emerged the champion, enduring the cold water for 6 hours, 47 minutes, and 15 seconds before claiming his victory. Ghettini led the race, trailed closely by his compatriots Alessio Occhipinti and Matteo Furlan, who claimed the subsequent podium places. Marco Inglima followed suit, finishing fourth, completing the sweep by the Italian swimmers.
As Ghettini stepped out of the cold waters, he exclaimed, “It’s fantastic!” Despite admitting to struggling in cold water, he appeared thrilled with the unexpected victory. “This is the hardest race I’ve ever done,” he added before making his way to the medical team. This was a particularly important win for Ghettini as he had withdrawn from the race four years ago.
What stood out in the Italian performance was the display of solidarity. Ghettini revealed, “It was not the plan at the beginning [to swim together], but if we can help each other, we do it. When we saw an opportunity, we talked about it and said, ‘OK, let’s try.'” This effective teamwork, coupled with each swimmer’s individual strength and endurance, worked in their favor.
The top performer among the women was 20-year-old Inès Delacroix, completing the marathon in 7 hours, 30 minutes, and 52 seconds. She was followed by Madisyn Armstrong and Erika Yenssen.
The event also saw commendable participation from Philippe Lacasse from Beauce, who secured the eighth position, completing the course in 8 hours and 27 minutes. Reflecting on the race, Lacasse pointed out, “After half an hour in the lake, the water cooled down, and it didn’t really warm up after that. That was mainly the biggest challenge. It wasn’t so much the distance but mainly the temperature.”
Among the 21 competitors who began the race, only half managed to complete the 32-kilometer open water course. Among the prominent withdrawals were Quebec’s William Racine, who also attempted the crossing last year but had to bow out due to hypothermia. French swimmer Axel Reymond, American Sandra Frimerman-Bergquist, Argentines Aquiles Balaudo, Martin Miguel Carrizo Yunges, Matias Diaz Hernandez, Australian Bailey Armstrong, and Macedonian Aleksandar Ilievski also withdrew from the race.
Reymond shared his experience, stating, “After 30 minutes, I started to have stomach pain, and little by little, I started to have muscle cramps.”
The Director of the event, Jérémy Bonneau, despite the challenges of the day, underscored the event’s significance in the international open water swimming community. “If you want to be considered the best swimmer in the world, first of all, you have to cross Lake Saint-Jean, but you also have to win it.”