Florian Wellbrock wanted to defend his world title in the 1500 meter freestyle. It became bronze. Wellbrock then takes gold in the first open water competition and has a set of medals complete.

Florian Wellbrock held on to the stop bar and stretched his index finger in the air. With a strong final sprint, the German model swimmer won the first gold medal at the World Championships in Budapest for the 4×1500 meter mixed relay in open water on Sunday.

Together with his teammates Lea Boy, Oliver Klemet and Leonie Beck, he then celebrated success on the podium, which was also important for him personally. After silver over 800 meters freestyle and only 18 hours after bronze over 1500 meters, there was now the first long-awaited gold. “The set of medals is now complete and everything that comes now is on top. It’s nice to have bronze, silver and gold together,” Wellbrock said.

In what can certainly be described as chaotic competition in the 26-degree warm Lupa Lake on the outskirts of Budapest, Boy had put the Germans ahead on the first lap. Also because four nations blurred at the last buoy, took a shortcut and were then disqualified. Klemet extended the lead before Beck fell slightly behind again against three strong men. “I wanted to keep the gap as small as possible,” said Beck, who came fourth eight seconds behind.

Successful final sprint

Wellbrock made up the decisive ground, always swam inside lane to fly away from everyone in the final sprint. “It was nice to be able to do the sprint without Bobby Finke,” said Wellbrock and his trainer Bernd Berkhahn praised: “He did it masterfully, tactically he was very, very good. He was neither for Hungary nor for Italy. That’s when you realized what he was actually capable of.” The coach didn’t even think back a day when defending champion Wellbrock didn’t do everything right in the 1500-meter pool distance and won bronze.

Wellbrock had made a gamble on his parade route in the basin. “He focused too much on Bobby Finke. That was something to behave with. And they made Gregorio (Paltrinieri) swim. That was a mistake by both of them,” criticized national coach Berkhahn. The Italian went from the start, plowing through the Duna Arena basin at breakneck speed and quickly putting a three-length lead between himself and the competition. Some of his split times were more than three seconds below the world record.

“I knew that Gregorio would start quickly, but I didn’t think he would be so fast,” Wellbrock described the course of the final. And there, too, Berkhahn had a slightly different opinion. «Gregorio always swims with a huge heart. It was Gregorio’s plan, everyone knew about it. That wasn’t a big surprise,” said the Magdeburg coach, but then defended his protégé a little: “You need incredible experience for this route, a lot of confidence. Since the young are still something to behave.”

«Bronze won»

Still, losing the title is no drama for Wellbrock. “I won bronze,” he said, emphasizing that it was no longer easy to get on the podium in this discipline. “That might have been the case a few years ago, but not anymore with the power density. I’ve come close to my personal best,” remarked the open water Olympic champion.

Berkhahn sees it that way too, but had one major point of criticism to point out. “He just came out of the water and said he hadn’t exhausted himself and could continue swimming,” said Berkhahn. Not entirely understandable for a World Cup final under these circumstances.

Wellbrock had his special focus on the 1500 meters. After winning the heat against strong competition, he placed great value on rapid regeneration. That was a new training goal developed by Berkhahn in the run-up to the competitions in Hungary. The looseness was there, just not the great willingness to take risks.

At the end of the day, Berkhahn praised the performance of the ten German pool swimmers who competed in Budapest, who achieved four medals and numerous final places and achieved their best result since 2009. «It was unbelievable. Especially the last day. All athletes who had not yet left were in the finals. I don’t know if that has ever happened in DSV,” said Berkhahn, emphasizing the unity of athletes, coaches and staff in these title fights. “The team and the mood were great,” said the national coach.