2021 European Aquatics Championships: Paltrinieri & Van Rouwendaal Clinch Golden Double

Gregorio podium 10k
Photo courtesy: deepbluemedia

Gregorio Paltrinieri and Sharon van Rouwendaal continued their gold runs with victories in their respective 10k races – albeit in very different circumstances – at the European Aquatics Championships at Lake Lupa.

Paltrinieri executed his race to perfection, moving to the outside after Axel Reymond had drawn level with leader Florian Wellbrock before going ahead of the world champion.

The Italian, who claimed his first individual international open water medal in the 5k on Wednesday, then went ahead and opened up a two-second lead at 9250.

The Olympic 1500 free champion extended his lead to finish in 1:51.30.6, 11secs ahead of Marc-Antoine Olivier – as the pair repeated their one-two in the 5k – with Wellbrock moving through to third.

It all adds up to the promise of a thrilling race in Tokyo with both Paltrinieri and Wellbrock taking on the double-pronged pool and open water programme and the Italian having beaten the German for the first time in the 10k.

Sharon van Rouwendaal 5k

Photo Courtesy: A.Kovacs/deepbluemedia/insidefoto

Van Rouwendaal returned to the venue at Lupa Beach a day after winning the 5k on Wednesday and appeared on course for a similarly-dominant victory.

However, Anna Olasz spearheaded a charge by a four-strong group on the final kilometre which saw the Hungarian move on to the Netherlands swimmer’s shoulder before inching ahead.

Van Rouwendaal though dug into her banks of mental strength accumulated through the years in pool and open water in a stroke-for-stroke battle down the final metres and touched in 1:59.12.7 for victory  by 0.03.

Olasz stopped the clock at 1:59.13 with Italian Olympic silver medallist Rachele Bruni edging third by 0.04 from Paula Ruiz Bravo.

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Paltrinieri At The Double

Wellbrock went ahead at the 4000m mark and by the time the German reached 7250, he was 9.7secs ahead of Paltrinieri who was back down in 12th.

Come the 8000m mark and he was still ahead with Kristof Rasovszky, Olivier and Olympic champion Ferry Weertman next and Paltrinieri moving up to sixth.

gregorio paltrinieri finish 10k

Photo Courtesy: deepbluemedia

Rasovszky made his move and pulled level with Wellbrock with the pair then joined by Frenchman Axel Reymond, the German breathing to both his left and right and eyeballing his rivals.

Reymond moved ahead only for Wellbrock to respond, the pair going stroke for stroke and eyeball for eyeball.

The French swimmer surged out in front but then came Paltrinieri to his right – a tactic he employed in the shorter race – with the Italian going ahead.

Come the final buoy and he had built up an clear lead, one he extended to at least 15m, as Wellbrock – who had dropped to seventh at one point – came back at Olivier.

As Paltrinieri touched a sprint finish unfolded behind him with Olivier getting the touch in 1:51.41.7, 0.03secs ahead of Wellbrock (1:51.42.0) with Weertman fourth in 1:51.43.0.

Paltrinieri attempted to raise his arms in victory but was not able to lift them quite as high as following his 5k victory, fatigue draining his face.

He told Italian TV station RAI:

“Mamma mia, today was much more effort than yesterday, I was tired, for sure.

“I tried to do the first two laps, I was third from last or next to last, I was just trying to swim, then I started progressing slowly.

“On the last lap I went, pushed and saw that I was leaving (them behind).

“(It was a) beautiful race. I am super happy and super tired.

“I saw the stars in the last 100 metres. All the strong (swimmers) were there, it was a really good test .”

Gregorio Paltrinieri Opening Press Conference Copenhagen 12-12-2017 Royal Arena LEN European Short Course Swimming Championships - Campionati Europei nuoto vasca corta Foto Andrea Staccioli / Insidefoto / Deepbluemedia

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Insidefoto / Deepbluemedia

He added:

“I’m really happy with all my results.

“I came here just to do my best and prepare for the Olympics but I didn’t expect anything in particular.

“Two golds are really a maximum for me and I’m really glad to be here and compete with these guys.

“It’s my first time in the 10km at the Europeans and it was amazing.

“The best (marathon swimmers) are Europeans so it’s really great that I could achieve this.

“In the previous years I didn’t have enough energy to push the last 1,000 metres like today.

“Now (when) I got to the finish I felt I could speed up. I could travel throughout the race with the pack, didn’t lose too much energy, I didn’t have that much fighting and this put me to a great position to go ahead at the end.”

F099062F-839C-4B89-8D0F-CDAE3DBD0097

Marc-Antoine Olivier Photo Courtesy: FINA/Doha 2020

The Italian’s delight contrasted with Olivier, who said:

“I came here for the gold as this is my distance so I’m not fully satisfied with this medal.

“The main goal is the Olympics so this race was a good experience on the way.

“I think Paltrinieri didn’t do any surprising thing, he was just well-prepared to swim in the wetsuit but that’s a good lesson for us and we can use what we learned here for the Olympics.”

For Wellbrock the race presented learning opportunities ahead of Tokyo.

“It was a tough race among good conditions with the wetsuits.

“At the end it was a tough battle with Marc-Antoine, I came in the third position which is OK for the moment.

“I think I can do a little bit better in Tokyo. I had problems to swim in the pack so I tried to swim in front for most of the race but at the end I felt a little bit tired.”

Van Rouwendaal In Seventh Heaven

Van Rouwendaal won the 5-10k double – as well as team gold – at the last European Championships in Glasgow and she seemed certain to pick up her second title in as many days.

Olasz 10k

Anna Olasz: Photo Courtesy: deepbluemedia

The Olympic champion held a 20m lead on the final lap but Olasz was having none of it and moved through the field to go into second although she was still 6.2secs behind with 750 to go as she led a group of four who obliterated the deficit.

The Hungarian pulled alongside Van Rouwendaal – urged on by one of her coaching team who was waving a toy rabbit on the bank – before taking the slightest of leads.

The Netherlands swimmer was breathing to her right, eyeballing Olasz, and drew on every ounce of determination to pull level in the final 25m, the pair going stroke for stroke before Van Rouwendaal just got the touch ahead of Olasz.

There was a similarly-tight finish behind the pair with Bruni edging out Ruiz Bravo by 0.04 with the first four women separated by 2.8secs.

Van Rouwendaal held up seven fingers to indicate the seven European titles she has won in Berlin, Glasgow and Budapest.

Van Rou Bruni

Sharon van Rouwendaal & Rachele Bruni: Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia

Her golden double – and the differing manner with which the titles were clinched – comes a little more than nine months after she switched training base and coach from Philippe Lucas at Montpellier, France, to German national coach Bernd Berkhahn in Magdeburg.

Now she can look to Tokyo with confidence, a swimmer in a far better place than the one who secured Olympic qualification by claiming 10th spot at the 2019 worlds, just 0.01 ahead of Aurelie Muller, then the world champion.

For Van Rouwendaal, it offered her a chance to educate herself and to assess how she could control and influence the race.

She said:

“Today my goal was to learn several things during the race and not just swim to win or get to the podium.

“It was more about to see what my rivals could do, tiring them, leading the pack, I did a lot of changing of gears but that cost a lot of energy.

“So even if I was in front I still wasn’t sure I could win the race.

“I got pretty tired of playing this way. I guess everybody was dead at the end, so was I, perhaps I did a bit too much playing.

“In the past when I left the others, I really left and never played, today that was the price of testing the others and myself.”

Van Rouwendaal posted to social media:

Olasz and Van Rouwendaal were born only 10 days apart but the pair’s careers have taken different paths in recent years.

The Hungarian was 14th at Rio 2016 as the Dutchwoman won the title and she pondered quitting.

The enforced lockdown because of the coronavirus gave Olasz time and space to reset and confront her demons.

She said:

“It’s pretty strange to think into it but ever since I started my open water career in 2011, this was my very first medal in the 10km race at the majors.

“I had a lot of ups and downs since my last podium in Kazan 2015 (in the 25km), though one thing never changed: my love towards swimming.

“Still, if the World Championships hadn’t been staged here in Hungary in 2017, I would have probably finished my career.

“I carried on, though I never really succeeded at the races, my performances were never worthy of the high quality of my training.

“For some reason, I wasn’t able to deliver in competitions as I barely believed in myself.

“Then came last year when I could really cleaned up my mind and however weird it is but this Covid-period helped me a lot to get rid of all the demons.

“Now I had a plan and I could stick to it, I could do what the tactics required and when I saw I could close on to Sharon it was a huge boost.

“Over the last 50m, I knew I didn’t have that much chance to pass her as she is a pretty good pool swimmer too while I’m not really famous for my speed but I don’t want to think of the tiny gap, I just want to enjoy this medal!”

Bruni eyed the end of a 15-year career next month in Tokyo, one that started at the 2006 European Championships, saying:

“It was a very tough race but a very good one. I tried to go with Sharon but I fought with the Spanish girl and that took a lot of energy and also took my focus away.

“I should say, that long fight made it impossible to have a realistic chance to go for the first place but once we settled somehow, I told myself to keep calm and focus on the finish.

“I was lucky, as the Spanish arrived to the panel in a bad rhythm so I could touch in ahead of her with my left hand.

“You know, I started my international career in Lake Balaton back in 2006, so I have really good sensations coming to Hungary.

“Now I’m waiting for the Olympics to have a worthy end of my long career.”


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