While hundreds of swimming stars came in from all over the world to the German capital for the FINA Swimming World Cup in Berlin, some of the top names in the sport are just a short drive, train or tramline ride away.
One of those nearby athletes heading to the short course spectacle is Florian Wellbrock who trains out of nearby Magdeburg, Germany, who calls the event “an absolute highlight” for himself and his national teammates.
"Of course, I'm looking forward to such a high-quality competition at home. After all, Berlin is something like our second living room for us," Wellbrock told the DSV.
As expected, the Olympic champion and world champion will compete on his parade course 1500m freestyle at the Swimming World Cup opener – an event that the last time we saw the reigning Olympic champion compete internationally at this distance in the 25m pool he did it in world record-setting fashion, finishing in 14:06.88.
Swimming fans won’t just have to wait until Sunday to watch Wellbrock race the 1500m as the 25-year-old has also registered for the 200m and 400m freestyle – ensuring he’ll be racing across all three competition days at the SSE swimming and diving hall.
Like other successful members of his Magdeburg training group, Wellbrock now belongs to the sports promotion group of the “Bundeswehr” (German armed forces) and had to complete his basic training in Hanover in September.
"Due to the basic training with the Bundeswehr, it was a bit more difficult than usual at the beginning of the season to get everything under one roof with the training,” Wellbrock told the DSV. “But I'm surprised how well things are going again. Of course, best times are not yet within reach again."
From 50m pool to Open Water Florian Wellbrock 🇩🇪 took home multiple medals at the World Championships 😉 Now its time for the #SWC2022 on home soil in Berlin 🤩 #swimming #worldcup pic.twitter.com/LulWAAios4— FINA (@fina1908) October 18, 2022
After a highly successful showing at the 19th FINA World Championships in late June and early July where Wellbrock won five World Championship medals in the pool and open water, he was unfortunately slowed down by a coronavirus infection following his performances in Budapest, Hungary.
He found the weeks in uniform to be an interesting change, and as a competitive athlete, he was able to easily cope with the physical exercises.
"We were able to get to know the athletes from other sports much more intensively during these four weeks, which was also very nice," says Wellbrock.
More from the Magdeburg training group
Wellbrock's club colleagues Isabel Gose and Lukas Märtens joined the winners table, taking their first continental titles at the European Championships in Rome, Italy. Now, and after basic training, they are now facing their first races as champions.
This is a role that the 20-year-old Gose still is getting used to. "In the middle of Berlin, Lukas and I were last recognized on the street and also addressed friendly,” Gose said to the DSV. “That was a very nice experience and shows that the fans here are also looking forward to this Swimming World Cup.”
Five times, on all freestyle courses from 50m to 800m, the reigning 400m European champion will take on events in Berlin.
"I'm particularly looking forward to trying the shorter, livelier routes again," said the native Berliner.
Lukas Märtens is in action at the Swimming World Cup over 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle events. He will also try his hand at the 100m and 200m backstroke.
"Of course I'm giving everything and will enjoy it, I can't hope too much for a victory after some health problems this time," said Märtens.
For national coach Bernd Berkhahn, however, this is not a problem: "Even if the focus cannot always be on best times, it is important for us to get the international routines.”
This is especially true for Sarah Wellbrock. The 28-year-old is contesting her comeback competition on the international stage in the capital after giving up the top international races in the pre-season to concentrate on her law studies.
"Of course, I continued to train almost every day and made some pleasing progress in the strength area, for example. After completing my written exams for the law state examination at the end of August and our free wedding ceremony at the beginning of September, I am now back on the full program with our training group," said the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medallist.
Everything is now geared towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games where she would like to start in pools and open water. Still, Sarah Wellbrock added: "But the Swimming World Cup is a wonderful start for me because competitions are the reason why we do all this. I'm looking forward to Berlin."
Courtesy: German Swimming Federation