Granite Bay's Haley Anderson and Hungary's Eva Risztov have developed quite a rivalry this year in women's open water swimming.
Anderson, 20, outsprinted Risztov, 26, to first place in winning the 6.2-mile 2012 FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier in Portugal in June by 1.4 seconds.
Anderson trailed most of the race, winning with a dramatic sprint in the final 500 yards.
This morning in London, at the 10-kilometer Olympic Marathon finals at Hyde Park's The Serpentine, Anderson again made a late charge at Risztov. But this time the Hungarian held her off in a photo finish to win gold.
Risztov reached up with her right hand to touch the timing pad, beating Anderson by four-tenths of a second after nearly two hours of racing around the historic 28-acre lake.
Risztov, who had retired from pool swimming after the 2004 Olympics, won in a time of 1 hour, 57 minutes, 38.2 seconds. Anderson finished in a time of 1:57.38.6.
According to an Associated Press account, Anderson was right on Risztov's left shoulder coming to the line but couldn't overtake her.
Anderson stuck up her left hand to nick the pad just behind the winner, also slapping it with her right hand just to make sure she had the silver.
"Of course, I'm disappointed that I missed out on gold," said Anderson, whose sister, Alyssa, won a relay gold earlier in the Olympics. "But I gave it everything I had. I'm happy with the result."
Open water swimming was added to the swimming docket in 2008, and Anderson is the first American to medal in it.
A huge crowd lined the lake to root for Great Britain's Keri-Anne Payne, the world champion and gold medal favorite. But Payne finished fourth behind Martina Grimaldi of Italy, the bronze medal winner.
Risztov was out front after the first of six laps around the narrow lake. She dropped back to third on the second lap, then took the lead for good on the third. Anderson was in fourth place with about 1,000 yards to go when she overtook Payne and Grimaldi.
Had the course been five yards longer, Anderson might have overtaken Risztov, too.
Anderson has only been swimming open water for about two years after doing everything to avoid the sport while at Granite Bay High school and with the Folsom-based Sierra Marlins, where her coach, Jeff Pearson, is a big supporter of the sport.
But once at USC, where the 5-foot-10 Anderson just completed her junior year and won the NCAA Division I 500-yard championship, she learned to embrace it.
"Open water is growing and gaining more attention," Anderson told reporters after today's race. "You kind of have to be crazy to do it, but it's rewarding."
The physical event, which can include jostling, elbows and kicks to the face, is gaining converts.
Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, in London to visit the USA Olympic men's basketball team after undergoing knee surgery, tweeted after the race: "I jus have 2 say that this open water swimming might B the most amazing thing ive seen...they R swimming 4 2 hrs non stp."
Anderson almost made the Olympics as a pool swimmer, too. She finished third in the 800 meter freestyle at the Olympic Trials. Only the top two finishers advanced to London in that event.