Germany’s Florian Wellbrock showed off his perfect mix of speed and endurance to win the 10km on Monday in Somabay, Egypt as the 25-year-old was up near the front of the pack for the majority of the race. The Olympic champion kept his stroke long and smooth as he stayed even with France’s Logan Fontaine for the first half of the race, before taking over at around 3000 meters and holding the lead all the way through to the finish.

Fontaine and fellow countryman Sacha Velly stayed close to Wellbrock on the first half of the race, but as the pace got quicker on the back half, Velly could not keep up, and drifted down in the ranks.

Wellbrock held his own in the second half with the lead pack of Fontaine and fellow German Oliver Klemet leading the field, along with last year’s co-overall winner Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary.

“At the beginning of the race, I tried to save some energy,” Wellbrock said of the race.

“The race wasn’t choppy, it was wavy today. Every lap, I could feel the waves building up more and more. That made it more and more difficult to swim, especially at the far end of the course. It wasn’t my day today; I’d prefer flat water, like in the pool. That better matches the lower frequency of my strokes. Today that was not possible, so it was more fighting with the water than swimming and feeling good in the water.”

France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier bided his time throughout the two-hour race, sitting 11th at 4000 meters and six seconds away from the leader Wellbrock. At the 6000m checkpoint, he was still six seconds behind Wellbrock, but sat in sixth, staying within striking distance of the leaders.

By 8000 meters, Wellbrock, who trains with coach Bernd Berkhahn in Magdeburg, still held a slight lead over Fontaine while Olivier had pulled up to third. The final lap of the race came down to those three, with Wellbrock eventually coming to 10,000 meters at 1:52:53.2, out-sprinting Olivier at 1:52:53.3 in a photo finish.

Third place went to Fontaine (1:52:55.0) while Rasovszky was fourth (1:52:55.5).

“At the end, it was a lot of hard work,” Wellbrock said. “And in the end, hard work always pays off. I had a good sprint at the end with Marc-Antoine. He knows how to swim open water; he’s a clever guy. We had a really good race.”

Wellbrock is coming off his lifetime best time in the 1500m freestyle where he was a 14:34.89 to sit fourth all-time and second fastest European from the Berlin Swim Open on April 21. Wellbrock has been on a tear recently and is in the best shape of his life ahead of what will be a very important summer in terms of qualifying for the 2024 Olympics. The three medalists in the 10K in Fukuoka this summer will automatically qualify for the Paris Games.

“Today’s a really good result, first of all, for the first open water race of 2023,” Wellbrock said. “Everybody knows my shape is really good after my 14:34 (1500m in the pool last month in Berlin). It was about taking that shape and condition and bringing it to open water racing.”

Image Source: Somabay Red Sea

The race conditions were slightly wavy, with winds affecting the course, including the final straightaway. Water temperatures were reported to be 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit).

“As I’m the world champion in the 5km, I tried to make the second 5km much faster than the first half of the race,” Wellbrock said. “But with the waves, it was not possible today. All the time, it was really hard work out there today.”

Image Source: Somabay Red Sea/World Aquatics

“It was really challenging,” Rasovszky said of the wind. “You had to adapt to different conditions around the whole course. That made it really tough, but that’s what open water swimming is all about. You’ve got to adapt as fast as you can. From changing conditions, to what your competitors are doing in the race. It was both a really tactical and fast race.”

The two new awards look to play a significant role in animating the racing and winning one can not only serve as a stepping stone for greater glories for the athlete but will soon also be considered an important victory in itself.

Athletes will earn sprint points for passing through specific, pre-determined points within the individual 10km events. After each World Cup, the current highest cumulative sprint point-scoring athlete will carry this distinction into the following stop.

Fontaine scored the most sprint points with 73 after leading after one lap and sitting second after three laps. Wellbrock sits second in the sprint points tally with 70 after sitting third after lap one and first after lap three.

The World Cup Junior Leader will be awarded to the overall best-ranked young male and female athlete (aged 19 and under, as of 31 December 2022) in the 10km events. The current overall leader of the junior ranking will carry the title to the following stop.

18-year-old Sacha Velly was the junior winner of the race, finishing 10th overall at 1:54:08.4 after staying with the lead pack for 6000 meters. Velly out-touched Germany’s Linus Schwedler in a photo finish as the 18-year-old was a 1:54:08.9 in getting 11th overall.

“My first goal was to make the top five today in the overall,” Velly said. “But there came a point in the race today where I saw that this was not quite possible. I backed off the pace a bit and picked up the race with Linus (Schwelder) my main competitor in the junior competition. The focus changed to making sure I could win today’s race for the top junior position. I’m also still very happy to be in the top ten of the global placement.

“I’ll fight until the end for the junior World Cup crown,” Velly said of leading the junior field for the World Series. “But my first goal remains to be in the fight for the win for the win for an overall World Cup win. If I can do this first objective, then I think I can also win this year’s junior title.”

Italians Marcello Guidi (1:52:57.1) and Mario Sanzullo (1:53:01.0) finished fifth and sixth respectively after coming well off the pace in the second half. France’s Jules Wallart (1:53:23.6) and Klemet (1:53:31.8) were seventh and eighth.

What's Coming Up Next | Relay Race Day

The week will continue with the 4x1500m mixed relay to be held on Tuesday in Somabay with the race beginning at 10:00 a.m. local time.

“I will be there, for sure,” Wellbrock said of the relay. “I’ll anchor the last leg for my team. Let’s see what will happen.

“I like the relay. Swimming looks like a single sport event, but for me, it isn’t. My team is really important, so I really like to compete in the relay. I’m really excited for tomorrow.”


Contributing: Torin Koos