After a mile of pure effort, it came down to less than two seconds. California’s Jordan Wilimovsky hung on in a lung-bursting sprint to the finish line to take victory in the Flowers Sea Swim.
With Chip Peterson closing in, in the final stretch, Wilimovsky touched the finish line first to lead home some 900 swimmers in the annual open water event. His finish time was 16 minutes 54.45 seconds. Peterson clocked 16.55.70, in one of the closest finishes in the race in recent memory. Victory was extra sweet for Wilimovsky, who just missed out in 2013.
“I was second two years ago. I definitely wanted to come out here and win. It was a lot of fun,” he said at the finish line outside Royal Palms. Hundreds of swimmers were at the starting post outside The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman when the horn sounded at 2:30 p.m. to signal the start of the race.
The winning pack came home inside 20 minutes, but for most of the swimmers the battles were personal. Some aimed to top personal best times, others strived just to finish. The last swimmer crossed the line, as proud as the race winner, in just over an hour and 13 minutes.
Geoffrey Butler of Stingray Swim Club was the first Caymanian across the line in 19.17.77. Stingray swim coaches David Pursley and Tim Leonhart were the most eye-catching competitors in the race, competing in full orange body paint. The pair each swam a sub-25-minute mile.
Wilimovsky, a U.S. national champion over 10 kilometers, said he treated the race as a sprint, going for broke from the start.
“Me and my teammate Brendan Casey lined up on the outside and tried to go for it from the start. It is just a mile, so we tried to sprint the whole way. I always want to try and do well. It is really fun to win this time.” Casey came in third, just over 20 seconds behind the leaders. Wilimovsky said he plans to be back next year to defend his title.
“It is a great race and a lot of fun,” he added.