World Aquatics Championships Doha: Ferry Weertman On The “Now Or Never” 10k Races As Paris 2024 Looms Large

Ferry Weertman: Photo Courtesy: LaPresse/ Fabio Ferrari

World Aquatics Championships Doha: Ferry Weertman On The “Now Or Never” 10k Races As Paris 2024 Looms Large

Ferry Weertman sits in his hotel room in Doha, looking ahead to the “do or die” open water races that will determine Olympic qualification.

The Netherlands swimmer won 10k gold at Rio 2016, followed a year later by the world title in Budapest before calling time on a fine career in December 2021.

Also a four-time European champion, Weertman is in the Qatari capital in his role on the World Aquatics technical committee.

At stake – as well as world titles – is a place at Paris 2024 with the women’s race kicking off the action in the 10k at the Old Doha Port on Saturday 3 February with the men going the following day.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Zsolt Szigetvary/EPA/Shutterstock (8964486t) Ferry Weertman FINA Swimming World Championships 2017, Balatonfured, Hungary - 18 Jul 2017 Gold medal winning Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands poses on the podium during the medal ceremony of the men's open water 10km final at the FINA Swimming World Championships 2017 in Balatonfured, southwest of Budapest, Hungary, 18 July 2017.

Ferry Weertman: Photo courtesy: Zsolt Szigetvary/EPA/Shutterstock

The medallists in the respective men’s and women’s 10k at the 2023 World Championships punched their tickets for Paris.

So for Florian Wellbrock, Kristof Rasovszky and Oliver Klemet among the men and Leonie Beck, Chelsea Gubecka and Katie Grimes in the women, Olympic qualification is already secure.

At least the top 13 swimmers in each of the marathon races will secure a slot to join the Fukuoka medallists as well as an additional representative from each of the five continents, with host country France guaranteed at least one spot for a maximum of 22 in each race.

Given the all-or-nothing nature of the races, Weertman told Swimming World:

“I think it is the most important race of the year and a quite unique one because normally 10 would qualify at the World Championships and then those countries would not be allowed to participate in the qualification tournament which is normally in Setubal.

“But now the countries that have one qualified can still qualify another one here.

“So for example Australia already has Chelsea Gubecka qualified and they chose to put  two other swimmers in here and those swimmers can fight for the extra spot.”

Athletes who have qualified in either the 800 or 1500 free may also enter the open water competition in Paris should a quota place have been secured.

Gregorio Paltrinieri, open water bronze medallist in Tokyo, will not compete in the 10k in Doha.

His place will be taken by 25k specialist Dario Verani, the 2022 world champion and European silver medallist.

Italy are relying on Verani and Domenico Acerenza – fourth in Fukuoka – to claim two quota places with Paltrinieri set to slot in should they succeed given he has qualified for Paris in the 1500 free.

Olympic Champions Must Do It On The Day

As well as Paltrinieri, swimmers who haven’t yet booked a ticket to the French capital are Rio 2016 champion Sharon van Rouwendaal and Tokyo gold medallist Ana Marcela Cunha.

Aug 4, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Medalists from left Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED), Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) and Kareena Lee (AUS) after the women's 10km open water swimming competition during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Odaiba Marine Park. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

From left, Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands, Ana Marcela Cunha of the Brazil and Kareena Lee of Australia; Photo Courtesy: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

The pair finished fourth and fifth respectively in Fukuoka, 0.10 and 0.20secs off the podium and qualification for Paris.

Weertman said:

“If you look at past results I think both of them at Worlds Cups or World Championships, they don’t often finish outside the top 10.

“So the question is, why would they now? I am not saying they’re here like ‘oh I am just going to do this’ because these are also races where people are going to try things, everyone’s excited so you might lose energy on the wrong piece of the course or someone tries to fight you or it might be more crowded in the beginning and it makes you lose a lot of energy.

“It is going to be a different race than it normally is but I do think both of them they have a lot of experience, so they should be up there but you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself and you don’t want to say it happened before it actually happened, you still  have to do it.”

The Final Countdown

With less than 24 hours to go before the women’s race, the clock is ticking for the swimmers with final preparations made and fine-tuning done.

According to Weertman, there’ll be the final “easy” sessions in the water and a lot of relaxation, watching movies or TV.

He added:

“Obviously you’ll have talks with your coach, final preparations like ‘okay now we have seen the course we know it’s so many degrees so we know for sure it’s not going to be wetsuit, there’s a little bit of chop can you see all the buoys, how is the finish, how is the field?

“Things like that. Finalise your strategy but it’s not going to change that much but it’s how can you tweak it to fit that specific course?”


Ferry Weertman: Photo Courtesy:

And the mental preparation?

“Things like shaving for me was also a mental process because you put the final dot on the “I” just to actually be ready.

“For me it really helped seeing the place I needed to race to help my visualisations, to make it even more realistic and more fitting to what I actually wanted to do.

“It was mentally also the hardest part because there’s a lot of swimmers that could easily make the top 13 which is the normal spot you need to make to qualify.

“So there’s a lot of swimmers that should be in the top 13: there’s at least eight or 10 that should be in there.

“But then you still have to do it on that specific day, in that specific race and that brings a lot of pressure on you because it’s now or never, it’s do or die.

“So you don’t have a lot of leeway to make mistakes and that’s what makes it mentally kind of difficult.”

He added:

“What helped me most is telling myself I’ve done everything I could.

“I couldn’t have done more up until now to be better than I am now and if you truly believe that, then even if the outcome isn’t as you want it to be – for example, me in Tokyo, I finished seventh which wasn’t my goal but still I was quite okay with the result because I did everything that I could and I had to trust in the process.

“I didn’t get the result I wanted but still if I could have done more, I would have done more.”

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