Smiling, Leonie Beck enjoyed the sounds of the German national anthem on the podium and kissed the gold medal. The impressive triumph in the World Championship race over ten kilometers brought the open water swimmer the greatest success of her career and the German team a perfect start to the title fights in Fukuoka. First decision, first gold – it doesn’t get any better than this. “I haven’t stopped fighting. I think I was the one who wanted it the most and I swam for my life,” said Beck after a good two hours of hard physical work in the great heat.
The 26-year-old won on Saturday with a strong final sprint ahead of Chelsea Gubecka from Australia and Katie Grimes from the USA. With the win, Beck secured qualification for the Olympic Games next year in Paris. The native of Augsburg made it clear how important that is to her in the interview zone in Momochi Seaside Park. “I would have been happy with third place too. The main thing is that I qualified for the Olympic Games,” said Beck, who also emphasized: “To be world champion is something very special.”
Thanks to the Olympic qualification, Beck now has planning security at an early stage. She does not have to prepare specifically for the unfavorably scheduled World Championships in February in Qatar, where further Olympic places will be awarded, and could even skip them. “Everything that comes now is a bonus,” she said with a view to the other World Championship open water races over five kilometers and in the relay. “But I’ll continue to give 110 percent.”
In mostly sunny weather with an intermittent short rain shower and a water temperature of 26.2 degrees, Beck showed her top class. The Bavarian, who lives and trains in Italy, was not affected negatively by outside temperatures of over 30 degrees. “It was a tailor-made start – a golden start,” said the competitive sports director of the German Swimming Association, Christian Hansmann, and added: “We are very, very proud of them.”
It was anything but ideal for the German swimmers in southwestern Japan. After heavy rain, they skipped a first training opportunity for fear of dirt and germs in the water. Only the day before the race, Beck and the second German starter, Lea Boy, who finished seventh, tested the course for the first time.
The water quality was good on Saturday. According to Beck, the values were within the specified range, even when she said: “You can’t see much under water. It’s a brown soup.” She still kept the overview: Beck swam in a leading group for a long time. At first she didn’t show herself at the front. However, she broke away a few hundred meters from the finish. In the end, their lead over second place was 4.1 seconds. Beck clocked in at 2:02:34.0 hours.
She had started her career as a pool swimmer, was not happy with it and decided to focus only on the open water. Moving to Italy, where she trains regularly in the sea in Lido di Ostia, gave her another boost. Last year, Beck won World Championship silver over ten kilometers and gold in the relay with Florian Wellbrock, Oliver Klemet and Boy. In Rome, she also became European Champion over the Olympic distance. Now followed the great triumph at world level.
Olympic champion Wellbrock also wants to secure his summer games ticket on Sunday (1:00 a.m. CEST). The 25-year-old, who won five medals in five competitions at the past World Championships, is one of the top favorites over ten kilometers. “I think it was worth its weight in gold today for motivating the boys,” said Hansmann.