Wellbrock & Beck Rule Open Water Waves With Pair Of World-Titles Doubles For Germany
Olympic champion Florian Wellbrock and teammate Leonie Beck ruled the open-water waves with 10km marathon and 5km doubles apiece at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka last July. They are the SOS Open Water swimmers of 2023.
In the marathon, Beck got the German party started at the Seaside Momochi Beach Park course when she made it three golden moments in one: the crown on her head, Beck also picked up the first automatic qualifying spot for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris and was then awarded the World Aquatics Open Water Fair Play Award for an act of sportsmanship during the World Cup series in 2022.
Coached by Fabrizio Antonelli, played a waiting game on the opening day action at the World Aquatics Championships back in Japan for the first time since the same city hosted the 2001 showcase. She sat some 10 seconds behind the leaders for the first half of the race and then, after staying in close contention all the way to the last lap, sprinted past her opponents on her way to gold.
Beck stopped the clock at 2hrs 2 mins 34sec, more than four seconds ahead of silver medalist Chelsea Gubecka (2:02:38.1) of Australia, and Katie Grimes (2:02:43.2). All three take a ticket to Paris for the 2024 Olympics, Beck securing a German berth for what will be her third Games.
Wellbrock – Big In Japan
Wellbrock evoked memories of his dominant victory at the Tokyo2020ne Olympics with a masterclass in marathon racing. Bib 68 was No1 among the 69 entries (two did not finish, two did not start) just about all the way. Wellbrock’s split times along the course of the 10km race at Seaside Momochi Beach Park showed only four occasions when another’s hand passed a timed point a fraction ahead of his.
Coached by Bernd Berkhahn, Wellbrock wore rivals down from start to a 1hr 50mins 40.3sec finish, 18.7sec ahead of his closest opponent. Silver went to Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky in 1:50:40.3, while the champion’s teammate Oliver Klemet on 1:51:00.8 for bronzeThat’s 2 gold, 1 bronze in two marathon finals a year out from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, three quarters of the tickets available for any one nation secured for Germany.
Only one other managed to get within a minute of Wellbrock: Domenico Acerenza, on 1:51:16.7, his teammate, 2016 Olympic champion and 2022 World champion over 1500m and the marathon, Gregorio Paltrinieri, on 1:51.40.7 in fifth and leading those more than a minute behind the German winner.
The 5km Battles
Wellbrock claimed the 5km gold in 53:58.0, ahead of the two Italians who chased him home well ahead of the pack a minute back and far off the podium. Gregorio Paltrinieri was 4.5sec adrift the German champion, with Domenico Acerenza 1.7sec further adrift.
Beck took the 5km gold in 59:31.7, precisely a second ahead of 2016 Olympic marathon champion Sharon van Rouwendaal, Brazil’s Tokyo 2020ne Olympic marathon champion Ana Cunha third a further 1.2sec away from gold.
Like the rest, Wellbrock then headed off to the pool but his form had taken a dip and it was suggested far and wide that further open-water-to-pool lessons might have been learned on the way to Paris when he finished 9th in 800m freestyle heats and then 20th in 1500m freestyle heats.
Lessons are always there to be learned, of course, but It’s not obvious what new instruction was to be had in Fukuoka. in Tokyo at the 2020ne Games, Wellbrock claimed bronze in the 1500m after just missing the medals in the inaugural 800m and then headed out to open water the week after to deliver dominance in the the marathon:
That followed the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, where the German ace claimed gold in the marathon and then the 1500m in the pool.
There are no certainties but on the strength of the past decade and past few years of distance-group development, Germany entered Olympic Year 2024 in fine shape, with gold and podium contenders in open water and distance freestone events in the pool.
With both men’s and women’s awards going to Germany, coach Bernd Berkhahn is the Open Water Coach of the Year in our SOS Awards, the other mentor honours next up in our series.