When the first final of the 2022 Swimming World Championships in Budapest starts at 6:00 p.m., the tension in the German team is enormous. Athletes, coaches, supervisors – they all know: Now, on this Saturday evening, Lukas Märtens can show off on the international stage for the first time. His first world championship medal, even gold is possible. While hardly anyone outside the swimming world knows his name, the competition has been warned for a few weeks. Nobody was faster this year.
However, he is not considered a top favorite – none of the co-favorites has as little international experience as Märtens. And yet: the 20-year-old swimmer, who trains in Magdeburg with Olympic champion Florian Wellbrock, has his nerves under control that evening. When he does his last crawl and throws, the “2” flashes on the scoreboard after his name. Silver. Australia’s Elijah Winnington won gold. Märtens was in the lead until shortly before the last turn, but then had to admit defeat to his opponent’s furious final sprint.
13 years after Paul Biedermann’s record race in Rome, a German almost won the world title over this route again. In 2009, Biedermann triumphed in what is still the current world record of 3:40.07 minutes. Märtens’ time on Saturday: 3:42.85 minutes.
In view of his recent achievements, it is not surprising that Märtens is now swimming into the limelight on the same route as his former role model. Nevertheless, silver is his first medal ever on a big stage, on the international stage he still had to prove himself at a highlight of the season. At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Märtens had still paid tuition.
This spring he was able to swim his way into the heads of the competition for the first time and advanced from being a huge talent to one of the hopes of the German Swimming Association at this World Championships. Above all, his time of 3:41.60 minutes over the 400 meter freestyle, his favorite distance, caused a sensation in April. For a long time nobody had come this close to Biedermann’s world record. “When I saw my time, I thought it was a mistake,” recalls Märtens. She would not have been enough to win gold on Saturday either. Winner Winnington swam to gold in 3:41.22 minutes.
His next World Cup chance follows on Tuesday evening over 800 meters freestyle. He recently snatched the German record from Florian Wellbrock on this route.
The World Cup cannot be seen on free-to-air television in Germany. You can follow the title fights on the Internet at “eurovisionsports.tv”.