First day, first medal: Lukas Märtens ensures a strong start for the German team at the swimming world championships. Florian Wellbrock’s teammate doesn’t have much time to celebrate.

Lukas Märtens hung exhausted over the dividing line in the Budapest World Cup pool, the silver winner was completely exhausted.

“It’s indescribable. I don’t even know what to say,” said the 20-year-old a few minutes after his biggest career success so far at the swimming world championships. In the catacombs of the Duna Arena one could clearly see the Magdeburg’s pride and exhaustion. Märtens gave the German Swimming Association a very strong start at the World Championships.

At the award ceremony, he jubilantly raised his arms in the air and laughed when IOC President Thomas Bach whispered something in his ear. Märtens didn’t want to reveal what amused him so much afterwards. “I think that remains our secret,” he said with a smile. “I’m curious when I can redeem it.” Bach had hung the longed-for precious metal on Märtens.

“Was a really good race”

“It was a really good race. In the end you could see that a few grains were still missing, but I’m super happy with the time,” said Märtens. “It’s a great thing to be able to retrieve it at such a level.” In the atmospheric hall, his partner Isabel Gose was emotionally involved about 45 minutes before her own 400-meter freestyle race.

“I didn’t have to warm up anymore. I jumped up and down there, said the 20-year-old. She was not satisfied with her own performance and fifth place. «I can do a lot more. I don’t know why I can’t do it in competition,” she said.

In a gripping race over 400 meters freestyle, Märtens took 3:42.85 minutes and was only beaten by the winner Elijah Winnington from Australia. Brazilian Guilherme Costa won bronze. «I am extremely satisfied. I didn’t expect that,” said Märtens, who had even led before the last 50 meters.

The Magdeburg teammate of Olympic champion Florian Wellbrock, with whom he swims in the strong training group of long-distance national coach Bernd Berkhahn, had already attracted attention this year. Märtens had traveled to the Hungarian capital as the world’s best of the year over 400, 800 and 1500 meters. The big question was whether he could confirm these achievements in the spotlight of a World Cup. He could.

Thrilling duel with Winnington

In his first race in front of a large crowd, Märtens didn’t let the pressure and the loud fans in the stands unsettle him. On one of Paul Biedermann’s two world record routes, he fought a gripping duel with Winnington right from the start. First the Australian was in front, then Märtens took the lead. Even gold was possible, but Märtens ran out of strength on the last hole. “The legs were just closed,” he explained. Winnington passed and won by 1.63 seconds.

Märtens doesn’t have much time to relax. Already this Sunday he jumps over 200 meters freestyle again into the pool. He still wanted to be rewarded in the evening – or be rewarded. “My teammates will come up with something,” he said.

While the 200 meters is just a sideline from him, he wants to attack again on two more scheduled starts. “I’ll do the 800 and 1500 meters again so that I might get another medal there,” he said.

Märtens set the clear highlight from a German point of view on the first day of the pool swimmers’ World Championships. Breaststroke swimmer Lucas Matzerath reached the final in sixth place in the 100 meter race. Angelina Köhler, on the other hand, was eliminated in the semi-finals over 100 meters butterfly.