ABU DHABI (UAE) - For the first time the open water event was paired with the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) with a brand new event: Mixed 4x1500 Relay. Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy led his relay team to victory in the first Mixed Relay contested at the 6km distance. His split of 15:49.1 was the fastest of the 9 teams. He swam 3.2 seconds faster than Hungary's Kristof Rasovszky who doggedly challenged him in the final lap.
Ten relay teams entered Yas Bay under a brilliant noon-day sun for open water swimming at the sound of the start horn blown by FINA President Husain Al Musallam to signal the start of the first-ever mixed team open water relay (4x1500m). Eight of the teams were led off by women, but the strategy for the teams from Kazakhstan and Ukraine was for a male swimmer leading off, looking to find the flat water edge as the two tagged off to their teammates with a pleasant 24.5 second to their advantage.
The President's Relay, the first time an open water event was paired with the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), consists of two male and two female athletes each racing 1500m. At the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, Korea, the mixed relay covered a distance of 5km. Today's event was 6km to attract pool swimmers who specialize in the 1500m event to race in open water conditions.
The order of the swimmers is determined by each of the 10 national federations. Interestingly, of the two teams that led off with a male athlete swimming the first leg, the team from Ukraine will be anchored by a male swimmer while a female athlete will anchor the Kazakhstan relay. The Brazilian team will also be anchored by a female swimmer.
FIRST LEG - Ukraine Igor Chervynskiy arrived first at 17:16.7 followed by Hungary's Raka Rohacz, a female who covered the first 1500m fastest among the 10 teams.
Portugal's leadoff swimmer Mafalda Rosa, female, was the third swimmer to complete the first leg of the relay. Race officials raised numbered flags to inform the second swimmer from each relay team when it would be safe to enter the water for the second leg.
The second leg swimmer might be a keen observer on the start pontoon and empowered to make his or her own decision when to enter the water to catch the fastest start, independent of the officials raising the respective relay team's flags.
SECOND LEG - Hector Pardoe of Great Britain was the first swimmer to complete the second lap, 33 minutes and 57 since the race started. He was trailed by Bruce Almeida of Brazil and then swimmers from China and Portugal who arrived 10 seconds behind the British leader.
THIRD LEG - Italian swimmer Domenico Acerenza took leadership of the race but was soon shadowed by David Betlehem of Hungary. The two swimmers battled for the lead, although the Italian would have been declared the winner if the race concluded after three laps.
The final swimmer, both male, of their respective teams entered simultaneously and the final leg would be to their advantage over the teams from USA, Germany and Brazil who entered about 10 seconds after the race leaders.
Only Brazil would be anchored by a woman, as the teams from Italy, Hungary, USA and Germany would all be anchored by male swimmers, including the three Olympic medallists in the 10K Marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
THE FINAL LAP - Entering the water ahead significantly ahead of the other 8 swimmers, the teams of Italy and Hungary were likely to be the only two nations battling for the gold medal. In today's race, Paltrinieri kept Hungary's Kristof Rasovszky in his rearview mirror.
The Hungarian swimmer has a voracious appetite for a victory, but today Paltrinieri would not allow the younger Hungarian swimmer to pass him. Although Rasovszky captured his first Olympic medal earlier this year and beat Paltrinieri by more than 2 seconds in the 10km Marathon in August, today he was only able to add another silver medal to the one he received from the Men’s 10km at Odaiba Marine Park at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
- ITALY - 1:06.49.1
- HUNGARY - 1:06.51.7 (+ 2.6)
- GERMANY - 1:07.29.0 (+ 39.9)
THE WINNING RELAY - Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy led his relay team to victory in the first Mixed Relay contested at the 6km distance. His split of 15:49.1 was the fastest of the 9 teams. He swam 3.2 seconds faster than Hungary's Kristof Rasovszky who doggedly challenged him in the final lap.
Shortly after winning the gold medal in the 1500m freestyle at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Paltrinieri announced his intention to add open water swimming to his agenda for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. He was challenged by a bout with mononucleosis in the lead up to this summer's Olympic Games but that did not stop him from earning a bronze medal in the Men's Olympic 10km Marathon.
Martina De Memme led off the relay in 17:23.8 and was the 6th fastest lead-off swimmer in the event. De Memme was also the oldest swimmer on the Italian relay, born in 1991. Giulia Gabrielleschi, the youngest Italian swimmer born in 1996 swam the second leg in 17:24.60 and was the 5th fastest swimmer in the second leg. Domenico Acerena swam the third leg in a time of 16:10.6, the second-fastest third leg swimmer.
THE PRIZE MONEY - The Italian team will split the first place winners prize money of $20,000. (USD). The Hungarian team will earn $16,000 (USD) to be split among its members and the German team will divide $12,000 (USD).
THE WINNERS SAID IT
Gregorio Paltrinieri - ITALY - Gold Medallist
It was a tough race. Since Tokyo, I have been focusing on pool training, mostly on the 1500m. Today was a race in the sea but it was also a 1500m race so I decided to swim the relay. Relays are always fun. I won't be swimming the 10km tomorrow. I battled with Kristof for the last 200m and he was trying to stay close to me. After the last bouy I gave it everything I had and he wasn't able to pass me.
Kristof Rasovszky - HUNGARY - Silver Medal
“It was a fine race. Too bad that the others did their best to set up a fantastic finish between Gregorio and me but I spoiled the party. Seriously, it was a great duel with Gregorio, he has definitely a better speed for a 1500m free, I tried to go with him and launch an attack at the finish but he could also switch gears and apply the same tactics as I had done against him in Tokyo, shutting down the paths on both ends. On one of his kicks, I swallowed a great deal of saltwater and that didn’t help me for the last 200m. In the end, it was great, we achieved what we wanted, we are on the podium, and can’t wait for the 10km now.”
Florian Wellbrock - GERMANY - Bronze Medal
“All in all it was a good race. It’s not just about me, it’s a team effort, we did our best, good for the bronze now. Reaching the podium is always great, especially when you have Hungary and Italy in the race, they are all outstanding swimmers. Now I’m getting ready for the 10km, we won’t have Gregorio in that event, perhaps that makes things just a bit easier but it’s going to be a big race anyway.”