By Iain Rogers
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Germany's Thomas Lurz became the only man to have struck gold in all four open water events when he battled through the pain of the final sprint to edge the 25-km race at the world championships in Barcelona on Saturday.
The balding 33-year-old from Wuerzburg, who took silver in the 10-km race and bronze over 5-km earlier in the week as well as gold in the 5-km team event, slapped the overhead finish marker to register a time of four hours, 47 minutes and 27 seconds after a marathon slog around the city's picturesque harbor.
Brian Ryckeman of Belgium came home just four tenths of a second later to take silver in a time of 4:47:27.4 followed by Russia's Evegenii Drattcev in third with 4:47:28.1.
"These championships have been great for me," Lurz told reporters.
"I was lucky to be in the middle (for the sprint) and I had a little bit of space.
"I closed my eyes for the last 100 meters, I was hurting, I had so much pain but I said, 'Now I give it my best'."
Lurz's compatriot Angela Maurer was unable to celebrate her 38th birthday with another gold for Germany after Italy's Martina Grimaldi edged her by a tenth of a second in the women's race following more than five hours in the water.
Maurer, who won 25-km bronze at the world championships held in Barcelona a decade ago, was devastated after initially being declared the winner, but said she was still pleased with silver.
Grimaldo came home in 5:07:19.7. Maurer, world champion in 2006 and 2009 and a silver medalist in Shanghai two years ago, followed in 5:07:19.8 and Eva Fabian took bronze for United States with a time of 5:07:20.4.
"I don't know what happened," a dripping Maurer, her eyes still showing the marks of her goggles, told reporters.
"I just tried to touch and maybe I didn't touch strong enough," she added.
"It's a little bit frustrating if you see you are first and then you see you are second.
"I'm a little bit sad but I did a great race so second place is also fine. I got a medal and that was the important thing."
Lurz dominated the 5-km distance at previous world championships, winning seven straight golds between 2005 and 2011, but had never medalled in the 25-km version.
He won gold in the 10-km in 2004 and 2009 and is also the only athlete to have won an open water medal at two Olympic Games, taking silver in the 10-km swim in London last year and bronze in Beijing in 2008.
(Editing by Stephen Wood)