World Championships: Florian Wellbrock Anchors Germany to Gold in Mixed 6k Open Water Relay

Germany won gold in the mixed 6k team relay at the 2022 World Championships -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: Florian Wellbrock Anchors Germany to Gold in Mixed 6k Open Water Relay

One day after the pool portion of the FINA World Championships concluded, the open water competition began at Lupa Lake outside of Budapest with the mixed 6-kilometer relay, featuring two women and two men from each country swimming three 500-meter loops each. As expected, this race produced an exciting, back-and-forth battle, but it was some of the stars of men’s open water who pulled their countries onto the medal stand on the anchor leg, with Germany’s Florian Wellbrock outpacing the field to secure gold.

Germany had the lead at the halfway point after Lea Boy and Oliver Klemet had concluded their legs, but by the end of the third leg, Hungary’s David Betlehem had passed German Leonie Beck and pushed his nation into the first, although Italy, France and Germany were all within 8.2 seconds off the leaders. That meant a battle between four men who have all won 10-kilometer Olympic medals: Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier and Wellbrock.

Paltrinieri and Wellbrock were both competing less than 24 hours after they raced in the 1500 freestyle final in the pool, a race where Paltrinieri exploded to record the second-fastest time in history and secure gold, while Wellbrock earned bronze in that race after taking silver in the 800 free earlier in the week. Both men had previously done the pool-open water double at the Tokyo Olympics last year, where Wellbrock won gold in the 10k and Rasovszky edged Paltrinieri for silver.

With one 500-meter lap to go, Paltrinieri led by four tenths over Rasovszky, with Wellbrock eight tenths further behind. But the German showed off some finishing speed to pull himself into the lead, and he touched first with a final time of 1:04:40.5 to secure German gold. Both Rasovszky and Paltrinieri hit the pad in 1:04:43.0, but a photo finish gave the silver medal to Hungary and bronze to Italy. France ended up fourth in 1:04:56.4

The rest of the top 10 teams included Brazil (1:05:29.1), Australia (1:05:30.8), the United States (1:05:50.5), China (1:06:21.8), Japan (1:06:32.9) and Portugal (1:07:08.0). The Americans used two swimmers originally scheduled to race only in the pool (Bella Sims and Charlie Clark) plus two new arrivals for the open water competition (Mariah Denigan and Brennan Gravely).

Full results from the relay are available here.