Aurelie Muller could not have asked for a better start to her competitive season after she retained her Abu Dhabi title in the FINA/HOSA 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup Saturday.
The 26-year-old Frenchwoman had not competed since being disqualified of her silver at the Rio Olympics and her lack of action began to show early on at the Emirates Palace.
Spanish junior world champion Paula Ruiz took charge after leading the first two laps, before Germany’s Finnia Wunram led the third.
Although Olympic gold medallist Sharon van Rouwendaal led the field from then on, Muller used all her experience to pip the Dutchwoman by the closest of margins, finishing in 1:52:35.3 and winning by just 0.1 seconds.
Muller will be aiming to replicate the performance at the French Nationals in April to claim one of the two spots for the World Championships and the current European champion insists her triumph will give her good confidence in achieving that goal.
“It was a very good race but it was a little difficult after what happened in Rio,” she said.
“My goal was the finish at least eighth to help my bid of reaching the World Championships, but to win was really good.
“There were some strong rivals who were just around me but I did enough to finish first.”
For Van Rouwendaal, at one point, she was eighth and revealed she had to change her game plan.
“I just went a little bit easy at the front and from lap four onwards, I went even faster. At the same time, I was keeping energy at the end,” said the 24-year-old. “Although I finished second, I’m pretty happy with the result.”
She added: “It was a test here and at the world championships (in July), I think I can do well there.”