2021 European Aquatics Championships: Van Rouwendaal & Paltrinieri Claim 5k Open Water Titles

Open water Buda 1
Photo courtesy: A.Kovacs/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Sharon van Rouwendaal and Gregorio Paltrinieri claimed the first two gold medals of the open water programme at the European Aquatics Championships with respective victories in the 5k at Lake Lupa.

Van Rouwendaal – who will defend her 10k Olympic crown in Tokyo in August – pulled away on the final section of the three-lap race at the venue to the north-west of Budapest to win in 58mins 45.2secs.

Giulia Gabbrielleschi of Italy was 4.1secs behind for silver in 58:49.3 with Frenchwoman Oceane Cassignol third in 58:51.4.

Gregorio 5k Budapest

Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

The men’s race followed on later at Lupa Beach where Paltrinieri was among a group who produced a late charge to overhaul long-time leader and defending champion Kristof Rasovszky who he trailed by 3.4secs with less than 800m to go.

Paltrinieri – who will tackle both the 1500 and 10k at the Tokyo Olympics – won in 55:43.3 ahead of Marc-Antoine Olivier (55:45.1) and Dario Verani (55:46.6) who ensured there would be two Italians on the podium.

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Van Rouwendaal Defends European Crown

The Netherlands swimmer moved steadily through the field from 10th to sixth and moved ahead of Gabbrielleschi – who had been second throughout – to lead at the 2600m mark.

There was less than a second separating the two at the final marker with 730m remaining but Van Rouwendaal moved clear for victory.

She has now visited the podium at four successive European Championships since she first took silver in the 5k in Berlin in 2014 where she also claimed gold in the Olympic distance for the first international title of her senior career.

Sharon van Rouwendaal 5k

Photo Courtesy: A.Kovacs/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Over 5k, the 27-year-old had also won bronze at the European Open Water Championships in Hoorn in 2016 as well as gold in Glasgow in 2018 before her successful defence on Wednesday.

Van Rouwendaal will switch her attention to the 10k on Thursday where she is also the defending champion.

There were worries and nerves in the build-up given the pandemic had brought most of the competition around the world to a standstill.

She said:

“I didn’t do any race in the past one-and-a-half years so I felt some stress but good kind of stress before the start.

“This was also the first competition with my new coach (German national coach Bernd Berkhahn) so I could prove that I could swim fast and and that approves my decision from last year.

“I wasn’t afraid of the water temperature, I could handle cold water pretty well, I even trained in my normal suit this morning to warm up.

“I’m happy that the race went like this, I could have even swum a bit faster at the end. Now hopefully I can recover and have another good race tomorrow.”

open water buda 2

Photo courtesy: A.Kovacs/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Gabbrielleschi said:

“It was my first real race for a long time, I took part only in the Italian championship so I was really hungry and aggressive this morning. I wanted to go for a medal and I’m happy that I could get it. I tried to catch Sharon but she was too fast today.”

For Cassignol it was a first senior individual medal in international waters and she said:

“Sharon set a very fast pace and I did try to keep up with her but at the end she did really well in the finish and Giulia also closed down the lane where I could have passed her.

“I saw that there were three of us so I thought OK, I could settle for a medal which was great as it had also been hard to pass the other Italian at the second buoy in the last lap.

“I can say I’m really happy with this medal, first one for me at senior level in individual races.”

Paltrinieri Wins First Individual Medal In Open Water

The men’s race was a thriller with twists, turns and unpredictability throughout.

Paltrinieri – the Olympic 1500 free champion – led after the first lap slightly ahead of Rasovszky and Florian Wellbrock, the trio tightly bunched and at one point pretty much stroke for stroke.

The Hungarian then surged ahead with Olivier for company, the pair one-two going into the final lap ahead of Wellbrock and Logan Fontaine of France with Paltrinieri in fifth.

Olivier ate into world champion Rasovszky’s lead and moved on to his shoulder with the Hungarian slightly maintaining his lead.

Gregorio Marc-Antoine Budapest

Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Rasovszky was 1.1secs ahead of Fontaine at 4270m with Olivier third and Paltrinieri 3.4secs behind the leader.

The Italian moved on to the outside and was one of five to make a charge as Rasovszky’s lead evaporated with a quintet of swimmers at one point almost in a line.

Paltrinieri’s tactic of moving to the right of the group and into clear water worked a dream as he took the touch to prompt fist-bumps all round once out of the water.

It was the first individual medal in the open water for Paltrinieri who won silver as part of the Italian quartet that finished second in the team event at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju.

Rasovszky eventually finished fourth in 55:47.3.

Victory came a year and a day after Paltrinieri announced he had split with Stefano Morini, his coach of nine years, in a move away from the Italian swimming federation training centre at Ostia to join the Italian national open water squad working under the guidance of Fabrizio Antonelli.

The three-time world champion in the pool will race in the 10k on Thursday where he will renew acquaintance once more with Wellbrock, who won the 1500m-10k double at the 2019 worlds.

Paltrinieri said:

“This is my first European Championships in open water so it was a challenge but it feels pretty good.

“Over the last lap I saw the other guys close to me but I just wanted to push to the limit.

“Earlier, it wasn’t enough what I did in trainings so I practiced a lot, more in Italy in open water where the weather is good.

“Every little step you take counts and now all these little pieces came together.”

Olivier won the world title in 2017 when the open water was held at Lake Balaton and he also looked ahead to the 10k, saying:

“I felt I was in good shape so I’m really happy that I could win this medal. It was a good race, it was a very tight finish but a great way to start the championships.

“I had some problems as I’m not really fond of these full body suits but this time I could overcome this. Of course, the focus is on the 10km, that’s what really matters.”

Verani 5k budapest

Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

For Verani, the bronze medal came as a pleasant shock as he ensured an Italian one-three.

 “I tried to attach myself to the pack and go with them as long as possible.

“It was a huge battle and at the end I was astonished to see that only two others were in front of me.

“I told myself, oh, I couldn’t believe it, let’s try it – and I’m extremely happy that I could win a medal, especially in the company of Gregorio.

“This is a huge boost to me.”


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