World Championships: Florian Wellbrock Invited Mykhailo Romanchuk To Join Training Group After Invasion Of Ukraine

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Florian Wellbrock: Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

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Olympic open water champion Florian Wellbrock invited Mykhailo Romanchuk to join him in Magdeburg, Germany, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Romanchuk was born in Rivne in western Ukraine and has claimed Olympic, world and European medals in the long-distance events in the pool.

The 25-year-old also holds national records in the 400-800-1500 free in both the long and short-course pools.

However, in February, Ukraine became the subject of the murderous aggression of Vladimir Putin who launched a war that is still ongoing.

Wellbrock looked on from Germany and contacted Romanchuk on Instagram, inviting him to Magdeburg where he trains with Bernd Berkhahn’s group.

Two weeks later the Ukrainian accepted his invitation.

Celebrating Gold Medal ROMANCHUK Mykhaylo UKR 800m Freestyle Men Final Swimming Budapest - Hungary 22/5/2021 Duna Arena XXXV LEN European Aquatic Championships Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Mykhailo Romanchuk: Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Speaking at the opening press conference ahead of the World Championships in Budapest, Wellbrock said:

“The important thing is for him to have a safe place, to follow his dreams and to continue his sport.

“I think for a special situation he is really good. His mind is in a good situation and his body is in a perfect shape.

“I really like to train with him because every training session is on a really high level, it is like a competition.

“He is one of my biggest competitors: his personal best in the 1500 is so close to my PB and I really enjoy to race him in every training and to learn from his technique and his mind so I benefit a lot.”

Wellbrock Set For Paltrinieri Reunion; Eyes Finke Speed

Wellbrock will contest the 800 and 1500 free in the pool before taking on the open water at Lake Lupa.

In August he will do the same at the European Championships in Rome, a back-to-back challenge that he has never previously attempted.

Both times he will take on Gregorio Paltrinieri, who won silver in the 800 free in Tokyo and bronze in the 10k.

“We both love to do both the pool swimming and open water and it’s always a great battle to race.

“I don’t feel like the favourite because he’s the European record-holder in the 1500; I think everybody tries to beat his record and that is why I am not the favourite.”

Bobby Finke won the 800 and 1500 double in Japan with astonishing acceleration over the last lap.

Florian Wellbrock Gregorio Paltrinieri Kazan

Gregorio Paltrinieri; Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia/Giorgio Scala

Wellbrock smiled ruefully, saying:

“I think the whole long-distance world was a little bit shocked in Tokyo because he was a little bit like the underdog in the 800 and 1500 but he did a fantastic job.

“Now maybe it is a good tactic to swim the 1500 a little bit faster because in Tokyo it was not really a fast race. His winning time was 14:39 and Gregorio’s PB is 14:33 so much faster.

“So I think we can do it faster – Mischa (Romanchuk), me, Gregorio and maybe also Bobby Finke and let’s see.”

Sun Yang’s world record stands at 14:31.02 set at London 2012 with Paltrinieri the second-fastest man in history with a European standard of 14:33.10.

While the Chinese swimmer is currently banned, Wellbrock is concentrating on making the top of the podium rather than rewriting the record books.

“I am not sure about this. For sure it’s a world record and it’s never easy to beat a world-record time.

“At World Championships I focus more on the medal and not on the times or the records so for me the gold medal is much more important than a world record.”

Lessons Learned And Applied In Tokyo

Wellbrock had arrived in Tokyo as the world champion in both pool and open water but the lessons he learned in Japan were unexpected but crucial and played a part in him claiming the 10k title.

He said:

“I learned a lot from Tokyo. I didn’t make it to the podium in the 800 and I was really disappointed.

“Then in the 1500 I tried to win the gold medal and nothing more – I didn’t want to take the silver or the bronze medal. It was the bronze so I was a little disappointed again and there was just one more race to go – the 10k in the open water.

“For me it was really important to become Olympic champion last summer – what I learned was the competition is never over because maybe one race was not the perfect race.

“So you have to continue and follow your dreams and it worked perfect in Tokyo. Maybe it was a good lesson for this competition here.”

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