21-year-old Florian Wellbrock of Germany wins Olympic qualifer

Florian Wellbrock Wins 2020 Tokyo Olympics Qualifier
Courtesy of FINA, Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park, Gwangju, South Korea. Florian Wellbrock won the FINA World Championships 10 km marathon swim. His victory qualifies him as the top seed for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games 10 km race – by the slimmest of margins. The 21-year-old Wellbrock, one of the pre-race favorites to qualify for the Olympics, beat Marc-Antoine Olivier of France by only 0.2 seconds after a furious two-man sprint to the finish. They were followed closely by the chase pack led by Wellbrock’s German teammate Rob Muffels. All ten of the 2020 Olympic qualifiers finished within 10 seconds of Wellbrock.

Marc-Antoine Olivier (silver), Florian Wellbrock (gold) and Rob Muffels (bronze)

Greg Eggert, FINA Media Committee Honorary Secretary, reports, “Wellbrook was the race and pace leader for much of the event. The few times that he was not leading, he was in the top three, dropping back to sixth position, only briefly, to strategically conserve his energy for the final sprint. Olivier slipped back into 12th place, but he was nearly always racing in the top 10. In contrast, Muffels was more conservative in his tactics, swimming in 24th place by the end of the second leg and in 2oth place at the 5 km point.  It was the first time that Germany qualified two men and two women for the same Olympic 10K Marathon Swim.” There were no disqualifications, but 7 yellow cards were issued by Chief Referee Bill Ford of Australia. Wellbrock is looking good to medal in the very warm, very flat confines of the Odaiba Marine Park course in Tokyo.  Wellbrock has the speed to win as he won the 1500m title at the 2018 European Games and two silver medals in the 800m freestyle and in the Team 5 km Relay. Muffels earned a bronze medal in the 10km event in last year’s European Games held in Glasgow. Like the Germans, the Italian team also qualified two athletes: Gregorio Paltrinieri and Mario Sanzullo in 6th and 9th places respectively. In a gutsy swim, Kristóf Rasovszky of Hungary finished 4th despite also swimming – and winning – the 5 km race two days before.  He was the only swimmer to qualify for the Olympics who also swam in the 5 km event. Wellbrock said, “There was no strategy or ‘key’ to today’s race for me. I love competing in open water swimming and I tried to be the best today. I train with Rob (Muffels) and we have the same coach. I don’t think anyone likes to train alone. I believe that working together with Rob and also training at altitude helped both of us in today’s results. I admit that it’s a big and also a hard step to be on the podium next year in Tokyo, but with hard work it may be possible. I expect to race in the pool events in Tokyo the week before the Marathon 10 km. I know that I am too slow for the 400m freestyle, but I will also race in the 800m and the 1500m pool events next summer.” Olivier who medaled at the 2016 Rio Olympics said, “I am really happy with today’s results, although I am a little disgusted because I get blocked at the finish. It was really a very difficult race. It has been swimming all along, we have rarely had races like this. There is the Italian who put a very hard rhythm from the beginning. I tried to put my tactics in place, but it was really very difficult. The qualifying year for the Olympics, people fight for a spot. It is only part postponed for next year, today there was some good competition, but it is not yet finished. I am happy that David Aubry from France also qualified as I train with him. The last two days it was very hot and I thought a little bit about the conditions and a lot about the many strong swimmers in today’s race. I guess it was an advantage to know the German swimmers who I have raced in many European events and also last year at the European Games. I want to win a gold medal at the Olympics, but today was not about revenge. If you want to beat Ferry (Weertman, the defending Olympic champion), you will have to work very hard. Ferry is a world champion and Olympic gold medallist and everyone knows he is an outstanding athlete with a great finish. Today we had a tactic to keep the speed of the race very high and perhaps that surprised Ferry, but he is going to Tokyo just like us.” Muffels commented, “I am totally relieved with the results, there was a lot of pressure, but it’s off me now. Four years ago I missed the qualification for the Rio Olympic Games. I have been working for eight years as a professional swimmer, always with the goal of Olympic qualification. Florian and I worked together and today’s result is a world champion and bronze medallist for Germany, it’s amazing and it’s great for open water swimming in our country. We have a great team atmosphere in Germany and we know that the French do as well. Both countries have two big teams and a lot of great coaching and professional staff support. There are many similarities between our groups, with lots of high speed endurance and fast swimming training. We also have a rich history of open water swimming. Florian and I have learned a lot from Thomas Lurz and also from Angela Maurer, two legendary German open water swimmers and multiple times world champions. In the end, it’s about experience and hard work.” Watch the remaining races at the FINA World Championships live here. Men’s 10 km Olympic Qualification Race Results (Top 35):
  1. Florian Wellbrock (Germany) 1:47:55.90
  2. Marc-Antoine Olivier (France) 1:47:56.10
  3. Rob Muffels (Germany) 1:47:57.40
  4. Kristóf Rasovszky (Hungary) 1:47:59.50
  5. Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) 1:48:01.00
  6. Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy) 1:48:01.00
  7. Ferry Weertman (Netherlands) 1:48:01.90
  8. Alberto Martinez (Spain) 1:48:02.20
  9. Mario Sanzullo (Italy) 1:48:04.70
  10. David Aubry (France) 1:48:05.10
  11. Esteban Enderica Salgado (Ecuador) 1:48:07.30
  12. Jack Burnell (Great Britain) 1:48:09.90
  13. Athanasios Charalampos Kynigakis (Greece) 1:48:15.40
  14. Kai Graeme Edwards (Australia) 1:48:16.20
  15. Logan Vanhuys (Belgium) 1:48:17.50
  16. Matej Kozubek (Czech Republic) 1:48:19.10
  17. Han-Li Fan (Canada) 1:48:21.10
  18. Tobias Patrick Robinson (Great Britain) 1:48:23.50
  19. Kirill Abrosimov (Russia) 1:48:55.90
  20. Matan Roditi (Israel) 1:48:59.60
  21. Nicholas Sloman (Australia) 1:49:22.70
  22. Evgenii Drattcev (Russia) 1:49:37.40
  23. Chad Ho (South Africa) 1:49:37.90
  24. Jon Thomas McKay (Canada) 1:49:43.70
  25. David Heron (USA) 1:49:57.60
  26. Krzysztof Pielowski (Poland) 1:50:02.80
  27. Daniel Szekelyi (Hungary) 1:50:11.30
  28. Guillem Pujol (Spain) 1:50:11.60
  29. Jiabao An (China) 1:50:14.00
  30. Danie Marais (South Africa) 1:50:14.20
  31. David Castro (Ecuador) 1:50:14.40
  32. Phillip Seidler (Nambia) 1:50:14.40
  33. Allan do Carmo (Brazil) 1:50:14.70
  34. Victor Johansson (Sweden) 1:50:14.80
  35. Victor Colonese (Brazil) 1:50:15.20
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