Silver medalist Kirill Belyaev (left), gold medalist Axel Reymond (middle), and bronze medalist Alessio Occhipinti (right)

Axel Reymond Wins His Second 25 km World Title
Courtesy of FINA, Yeosu Expo Ocean Park, Gwangju, Korea. The 25 km race among the men in the 2019 FINA World Championships is a race among veterans, but Frenchman Axel Reymond successfully defended his title over Russian Kirill Belyaev – by a mere 0.3 seconds. The race was strategic, but it came down to that tremendous finish by Reymond. Reymond said in his post-race interview, “I am very happy as it’s the second time I am the world champion.  It’s hard to describe exactly how I feel.  It was a hard race and a hard competition, but we love it. In the early part of the race, [teammate] Marco (Marc-Antoine Oliver) was with me and we tried several times to get ahead of the group. It didn’t work and we both had trouble staying on [pace]. During the race, I tried to stay in the group and then made a move to get into the first position and see how the group responded to my first acceleration. I would swim into first and then I would ease off on the pace and drop back into the group, so that I wasn’t doing all of the work. It was my strategy towards the end of the race to swim to the left and I was not even sure it would work, but I thought it was the best plan. So when I zigzagged those behind me, they were following and trying to catching up. It was for me a sprint of 800m and even in the finish channel I didn’t even believe it anymore. I honestly was not sure if I touched first or if the Russian swimmer did.

Silver medalist Kirill Belyaev (left) and gold medalist Axel Reymond (right) hit finish only 0.3 seconds apart after nearly 5 hours

He is very good at sprinting and so is the Italian swimmer. The last 400 meters was very, very tough and it was the hardest finish of my life. I thought that the title was going to be really hard, I was able to breathe and I made a touch, I don’t even know how I did it. I guessed that I touched before him and it’s magic. I am so happy for my teammates that together we can celebrate the Championships Trophy, which is for all of us.” Belyaev said, “I’m very happy to place second, but I would have preferred to win. Today Alex won and I congratulate him. When I touched, I still wasn’t sure if I finished in first or second. It was such a close race. I thought I would be ready for the sprint and I swam to be sure that I would be in position to sprint for the finish.” Occhipinti said, “I feel very good about my race, from the start until the end.  I am very pleased with the bronze as it was my first 25 km racing in the world championship.  Today the weather conditions were not great, but the event that raced in to qualify for Korea was also in the sea, and the conditions were like this, but with more wind and waves. I was ready for this today; my qualifying race was excellent for my preparations. I swam with my teammate Simone Ruffini, we swam closely together at the end. I tried to follow Alex, but then I didn’t see that he swam off on he left. When I saw him, I did everything I could to make a sprint for the finish and for the podium.” Men’s 25 km Results:
  1. Axel Reymond (France) 4:51:06.20
  2. Kirill Belyaev (Russia) 4:51:06.50
  3. Alessio Occhipinti (Italy) 4:51:09.50
  4. Simone Ruffini (Italy) 4:51:14.90
  5. Kai Graeme Edwards (Australia) 4:51:17.20
  6. Evgenii Drattcev (Russia) 4:51:19.60
  7. Alberto Martinez (Spain, 8th in 10 km race) 4:51:44.10
  8. Andreas Waschburger (Germany) 4:52:26.30
  9. Soeren Meissner (Germany) 4:52:52.90
  10. Gergely Gyurta (Hungary) 4:52:57.50
  11. Matej Kozubek (Czech Republic) 4:54:27.50
  12. Yuval Safray (Israel) 4:54:38.70
  13. Evgenij Pop Acev (Macedonia) 4:54:39.90
  14. David Heron (USA) 4:55:11.80
  15. Brennan Gravley (USA) 4:57:17.50
  16. Vitaliy Khudyakov (Kazakhstan) 4:58:33.00
  17. Daniel Delgadillo (Mexico) 5:02:41.60
  18. Bailey Armstrong (Australia) 5:04:10.70
  19. Mingyu Lu (China) 5:15:20.60
  20. Ruoyu Wang (China) 5:15:29.30
  21. Lev Cherepanov (Kazakhstan) 5:22:47.40
  22. Maximiliano Paccot (Uruguay) 5:41:44.70
  23. Marc-Antoine Olivier (France) DNF
  24. Kristóf Rasovszky (Hungary) DNF
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