Greg Eggert, FINA Media Committee Honorary Secretary

Florian Wellbrock of Germany won the men's10km in Yeosu, Korea by getting his hand on the touchpad a scant .2 of a second ahead of silver medallist Marc-Antoine Olivier of France. Wellbrook and Olivier were locked in a two-man race for the gold medal in the final 200m sprint to the finish line. In close pursuit was a tight pack of the world's fastest swimmers, including Wellbrock's German teammate Rob Muffels. Muffel's, a veteran open water swimmer since his early teens, used his experience to successfully emerge from that tight group to earn the bronze medal.

Germany's Wellbrook was the race and pace leader for much of the nearly two-hour event. The few times that he was not leading he was in the top three, dropping back to 6th position, only briefly, to strategically conserve his energy for the final sprint. Olivier slipped back into 12th place and for the same reason, but he was nearly always racing in the top 10. Muffels was more conservative in his tactics, swimming in 24th place at the second split and in 20th place at the midpoint of the race. From that point on, the German was in pursuit of his teammate and was keenly focused on a world championship medal. It was the first time that Germany qualified two men and two women for the same Olympic campaign.  

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With automatic Olympic qualification for the top 10 finishers, it was arguably the fastest race in the last four years, perhaps faster than the Olympic Games in Rio. A total of 74 men entered the 23.9 degree water. One athlete finished but outside the time limits set to record an official time. A total of seven yellow cards, warnings, were given to the men for swimming too closely to each other or engaging physical contact, but no red cards were issued.   

The 21-year-old Wellbrock and his 24-year-old teammate Muffels saw the German flags raised as they occupied two of the three spots on the FINA World Championship podium and both men have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Wellbrock won the 1500m title at the 2018 European Games and also earned two silver medals, one in the 800m freestyle and a second silver medal in the Team Open Water event. Muffels earned a bronze medal in the 10km event in last year’s European Games held in Glasgow.

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Olivier of France was the bronze medallist in the Marathon 10m event at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He owns two gold medals from the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest - he won the 5km and also was a member of the four person French squad that won the Team Event on Lake Balaton. Olivier and his French teammate David Aubry are one of three nations to send two men to the next Olympics. The 22-year-old Aubry finished in 10th place, 9.2 seconds behind the German world champion, and in doing so he earned the final position to qualify for Tokyo from this event. All ten of the Olympic qualifiers finished within 10 seconds of the winner.

Italian swimmers Gregorio Paltrinieri and Mario Sanzullo both qualified by virtue of their 6th and 9th place finish. Paltrinieri may not have been swimming at his best today, but he will surely compete in both the pool and open water events in Tokyo next summer. Paltrinieri is the defending Olympic champion in the 1500m freestyle and won the same event at the 2015 and 2017 FINA World Championships held in Kazan and Budapest. Sanzullo holds a silver medal from the 2017 5km finishing less than a second behind Olivier two years ago. He was a member of Italy's quartet that earned a bronze medal in the Team Event in 2017 at Lake Balaton.

Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary finished 4th, just two seconds off the podium behind the bronze medallist. Rasovszky was the winner of the men's 5km and the only swimmer to qualify for the Olympics that also swam in the 5km event. 

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The defending Olympic Champion Ferry Weertman of The Netherlands finished six seconds behind the German world champion in today's race. Weertman's seventh place finish qualified him for the next Olympic Games. Ous Mellouli, the 35-year-old Olympic champion from Tunisia finished in 38th place, two minutes and twenty five seconds behind the winner. Mellouli won the gold medal in the Marathon 10km at the 2012 London Olympics and finished in 12th place in the 2016 Rio Olympic Marathon 10km on Copacabana Beach. Mellouli took a three-year break from daily training but now has his sights set on the next Olympics. Great Britain's Jack Burnell finished outside the top-12, in 12th place. Burnell's disappointment today followed his disqualification from the 2016 Rio Olympic Marathon.  


Florian Wellbrock (GER), gold: 

“There was no strategy or ‘key’ to today's race for me. I love competing in open water swimming and I tried to be the best today. I train with Rob (Muffels) and we have the same coach. I don't think anyone likes to train alone. I believe that working together with Rob and also training at altitude helped both of us in today's results. I admit that it's a big and also a hard step to be on the podium next year in Tokyo, but with hard work it may be possible. I expect to race in the pool events in Tokyo the week before the Marathon 10km. I know that I am too slow for the 400m freestyle, but I will also race in the 800m and the 1500m pool events next summer.”

Marc-Antoine Olivier (FRA), silver: 

“I am really happy with today's results although I am a little disgusted because I get blocked at the finish. It was really a very difficult race. It has been swimming all along, we have rarely had races like this. There is the Italian who put a very hard rhythm from the beginning. I tried to put my tactics in place but it was really very difficult. The qualifying year for the Olympics, people fight for a spot. It is only part postponed for next year, today there was some good competition, but it is not yet finished. I am happy that David Aubry from France also qualified as I train with him. The last two days it was very hot and I thought a little bit about the conditions and a lot about the many strong swimmers in today's race. I guess it was an advantage to know the German swimmers who I have raced in many European events and also last year at the European Games. I want to win a gold medal at the Olympics but today was not about revenge. If you want to beat Ferry (Weertman, the defending Olympic Champion), you will have to work very hard. Ferry is a world champion and Olympic gold medallist and everyone knows he is an outstanding athlete with a great finish. Today we had a tactic to keep the speed of the race very high and perhaps that surprised Ferry, but he is going to Tokyo just like us.” 

Rob Muffels (GER), bronze: 

“I am totally relieved with the results, there was a lot of pressure, but it's off me now. Four years ago I missed the qualification for the Rio Olympic Games. I have been working for eight years as a professional swimmer, always with the goal of Olympic qualification. Florian and I worked together and today's result is a world champion and bronze medallist for Germany, it's amazing and it's great for open water swimming in our country. We have a great team atmosphere in Germany and we know that the French do as well. Both countries have two big teams and a lot of great coaching and professional staff support. There are many similarities between our groups, with lots of high speed endurance and fast swimming training. We also have a rich history of open water swimming. Florian and I have learned a lot from Thomas Lurz and also from Angela Maurer, two legendary open water swimmers and multiple times world champions. In the end, it's about experience and hard work.”

Oussama "Ous" Mellouli (TUN) 

“I was just feeling my bearings today after three years of being out of this race. It was definitely tough and it has definitely changed a lot. It was a great learning experience for me today. Hopefully we can build on it.”

Ferry Weertman (NED)  

“It was a very tough race,  everyone was going for the Olympic qualification and you really noticed that. Of course finishing in the top 10 ten was the goal, but as the reigning world champion in the 10km I was really going for the medals as well. In the last two rounds it was really hard to get to the front, I was looking for the best lines but swimming with some really good guys. I didn't have enough energy in the last straight to finish well. Just trying to pass people was really really tough. I have mixed feelings about today. I am really happy with the qualifying for the Olympics, but missing out on the medals is tough.”

Alain Vidot, SEY  - 14 years old, youngest competitor 

“I just wanted to finish and to see if I could swim a good time. I am just 14 years old. It's not every day a boy my age from Seychelles gets to come to the World Championships. When I am swimming I am thinking about my family who supported me and also my coach who encourages me to try open water swimming.I am happy because I finished the race in my first world championship although I did not get a personal best, it's not what I wanted. A week before, I had an injury in my knee and I thought it may have affected my ability to race.I wanted to challenge myself and to swim the 10km.I am going to keep training for the 5km and maybe I will do another 10km. I won't race the 25K, not now, but I am still young. This is my first time swimming in Korea and the sea is actually cold and I am not used to it. My family came to Korea to watch me swim.”

10K Men's Podium & 2020 Olympic Qualifiers

4. Kristof Rasovszky, HUNGARY -- +3.0
5. Jordan Wilimovsky, USA  --  +5.1
6. Gregorio Paltrinieri, ITALY -- +5.1
7. Ferry Weertman, NED -- +6.0
8. Alberto Martinez, SPAIN  --  +6.3
9. Mario Sanzullo, ITALY  -- +8.8
10. David Aubry, FRANCE -- +9.2