It was expected to be a duel between the teams from France and Germany in the first relay of the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup 2023 season, and it very much was for about 1900 meters.

Traditionally, two women lead off the mixed open water relay, while two men swim the last two legs. Aurelie Muller (FRA) held a half-second lead over Jeanette Spiwoks (GER) over the first 1500 meters, splitting 16:16 in the cool, calm water of Somabay, Egypt.

On the second leg, Celine Rieder, a relative newcomer to the marathon swim arena, who also trains out of the same Magdeburg training base as Olympic champion Florian Wellbrock and coach Bernd Berkhahn, sprinted ahead of Lara Grangeon and never looked back.

Rieder, who was 27th at the Tokyo Olympics in the 1500m freestyle, blew the race open on the second leg, splitting a 16:18 to Grangeon’s 16:58, leaving Germany’s Oliver Klemet and Florian Wellbrock with some clear water to finish the race.

“I’m coming from the pool so it's actually my first time racing the relay in open water,” Rieder said. “Yesterday was my second 10km ever. I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

“It’s actually been going quite well making the transition from the pool to open water."

Rieder swam the race like a pool 1500m, getting off to a fast pace early, churning her legs, and not wasting any time in the less than 20-minute race. With no feed required, there’s not a lot of time to hold back, and this allowed Germany to cruise to a win on the back half.

Image Source: Jacopo Briatore/World Aquatics

On the third leg, both Klemet and France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier split 15:12, with Monday’s 10km runner-up in Olivier unable to breach any sort of gap, leaving the 10km Olympic champion and World No. 4 all-time in the 1500m freestyle Wellbrock with a 15-minute victory lap.

“Our ladies are really good, but I was impressed with how fast Celine was as it was her first open water race weekend,” Klemet said. “She did a very good job and brought us a big lead.”

Wellbrock split 15:04 on the last 1500 meters to give Germany the gold at 1:02:50.1, while France’s Logan Fontaine came home in 15:21 to give France the silver at 1:03.48.5.

“I came in expecting a little bit closer race with the French team,” Wellbrock said. “But our women were so strong. And then my teammate Ollie is really strong in the 1500m as well, with a PB of 14:45. This was a perfect result for our team.

“Celine did a really good job yesterday and showed even a different level today in the relay.”

“Celine did a really good job yesterday and showed even a different level today in the relay.”
By Florian Wellbrock

Last year at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Germany won the team relay. The event has been contested at every World Aquatics Championships since 2013, with it existing in its current format of two men and two women since 2017. 

The relay made it debut in 1998 in Perth, but was discontinued and then reappeared again in Shanghai 2011. Germany has won four of the seven gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships in the relay, and will again be favourites for a fifth this summer in Fukuoka 2023.

“Looking forward to Fukuoka, this is a very good result,” Wellbrock said. “The relay is always a really strong event for Germany. We have a big history in the team event. I think we will be competing for the medals in Fukuoka.”

“Looking forward to Fukuoka, this is a very good result. The relay is always a really strong event for Germany. We have a big history in the team event. I think we will be competing for the medals in Fukuoka.”
By Florian Wellbrock

Germany also finished third with a second team, as Niklas Frach split a fast 14:53 on the third leg, while Lea Boy was 16:17 on the lead-off. The team finished third, but Egypt officially won the bronze medal at 1:08:45.6.

The Egyptian quartet of Nadine Karim, Mohamed Moselhy, Lamees Elsokkary and Youssef Madgy put a big emphasis on the World Cup opener in their home waters, which included a two-month training camp in Cairo that was followed by two weeks of preparation on the Somabay course. 

"This is our first medal, surely not our last," said Egyptian anchor swimmer Madgy. "I really enjoyed swimming in Somabay. Our whole team, we all did an amazing job. Everyone did their 100 percent.

"This is just the beginning. Most of us are still youth competitors and raced at the last world juniors in Seychelles," Magdy added. "Now, we’re better than when we were there. We’re going to put Egypt on the map in open water."

Germany will have a big presence at the Open Water Swimming World Cup, using this as qualification for the World Championships in Japan, which in turn will serve as the first step towards qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The 2023 World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup will continue May 20 - 21 in Golfo Aranci, Italy

With the first of the three sports wrapped up for the World Aquatics Festival in Somabay, the event action now turns to the third meet of the World Aquatics Artistic Swimming World Cup 2023 season and the beach water polo qualification tournament for the ANOC World Beach Games Bali 2023. The beach water polo events in Somabay will run from 12-15 May, with the Artistic Swimming World Cup taking place from 13-15 May. 


Contributing: Torin Koos