With a white towel over his head to protect himself from the heat and the self-confidence of a champion, Florian Wellbrock spoke visibly relaxed about Germany’s impressive success in the open water swimming world championships. His World Championship gold and the bronze medal for teammate Oliver Klemet made the Olympic champion cheer with his arms stretched up and then smile – scenes reminiscent of his triumph in Tokyo. “The joy is huge. I was toying with the idea that we’d get two medals today,” said Wellbrock after his triumph in the ten-kilometer race on Sunday.
The 25-year-old won easily in Fukuoka and celebrated his fifth title at the World Swimming Championships. With his victory in 1:50:40.3 hours, Wellbrock made the dream opening weekend perfect for the German open water team. “Awesome result, a great start to these World Championships,” he said.
Leonie Beck also won gold in the women’s competition on Saturday. Bronze for the 21-year-old Klemet behind the Hungarian Kristof Rasovszky also showed how strong the German open water team is, even behind the model athlete Wellbrock.
The three German winners of precious metals have already qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Beck, Klemet and Wellbrock, who was born in Bremen and trains in Magdeburg with national long-distance coach Bernd Berkhahn, can now tackle the coming year much more freely and self-determinedly. At the unfavorably scheduled World Championships in February in Qatar, where further Olympic starting places are awarded, they now do not have to appear in top form. You could even skip the World Cup. When asked whether the World Cup medal or qualifying for Paris was more valuable, Klemet even said: “For me, qualifying for the Olympic Games.”
On Sunday, he and Wellbrock were neither impressed by the warm water with an official 25.9 degrees in the sea in front of the Momochi Seaside Park nor by the outside temperature of well over 30 degrees in strong sunshine. As with his open water Olympic victory in Tokyo 2021, Wellbrock put up with the difficult conditions and gave the competition no chance. He went straight to the front and pulled away on the last lap.
With his success in the very first competition, the frequent starter Wellbrock gained more self-confidence for the upcoming races in Japan. A result similar to that in Budapest 2022, when he won five medals in five competitions, seems possible again.
Wellbrock is also one of the top favorites over five kilometers in the open water on Tuesday. There he starts as the defending champion. He leaves it open whether he will then compete in the season. In the second week of the World Cup, Wellbrock also wants to attack the 800 and 1500 meter freestyle indoors. So far no one has been faster than him on the longest pool distance this year. Wellbrock is Vice World Champion over 800 meters.
For Klemet it is the first major international individual success of his career. The youngster swam in the leading group right from the start and showed his enormous talent in the final phase of the race. At the World Championships in Hungary last summer, he won gold with Wellbrock, Beck and Lea Boy in the open water relay. Thanks to his podium finish, he can now look forward to his first Olympic Games. As a reward, the world association World Aquatics gave an oversized boarding pass with the destination Paris at the award ceremony.