With so much attention on Olympic and World champion Florian Wellbrock of Germany, and Worlds silver medalist Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary, along with 2022 World champ Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy, it was the other Italian Domenico Acerenza who touched first in the men’s 10K on Saturday morning in Portugal.

“I feel good in the race. There’s a lot of guys on form and it was a tight race. It was very tough and I am very happy, and I am ready for this season,” Acerenza said. “It was very difficult but in the last lap I tried to do my best and go in front and in the last lap, I thought, ‘where is the finish?’

“The first step is for sure Doha. I will try and qualify for the Olympics there.”

With water temperatures at 22 degrees Celsius, the race conditions on the final stop of the 2023 World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup were choppy in the island waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Acerenza used the conditions to his advantage, taking the win at 1:45:06.20 over Australia’s Nicholas Sloman (1:45:11.70) and Hungary’s Rasovszky (1:45:15.50).

Rasovszky won the overall title thanks to his third-place effort, giving him enough points to take the 2023 World Cup crown as he won the title for the third time in a row, taking the overall wins in 2019 and 2022.

“The results are really good for me so I am really happy with this season,” Rasovszky said. “I really like the conditions. It wasn’t too cold or too warm. I really like the wind and the waves and it makes the race much more tough. This is the real open water swimming.

“I want to be on the podium at the Olympics like in Tokyo. I already have the qualification for Paris so Doha is just a step for me. Of course it’s a World Champs and I want to swim well, but the main goal is the Olympics.”

The race was led early by the World and Olympic champion Wellbrock, who has really changed the game in the open water venue thanks to his combination of speed and endurance that has made him so tough to beat the last four years. But Wellbrock seemed to be a little off form, as he couldn’t get a lead big enough compared to what he had at the 2020 Olympics and 2023 World Championships. Wellbrock lost his lead on lap five of six and couldn’t keep up with the leaders as he faded all the way to 20th overall (1:45:31.20).

The pace was tight as there wasn’t a lot of separation amongst the lead pack as up to 30 swimmers were within a minute of each other at the finish.

Acerenza made his move late in the race, timing it just right to out-sprint the others as it looked almost as if France’s Sacha Velly could steal the race from the pre-race favorites with the Italians Paltrinieri and Acerenza in tow.

As the crowd turned for home, Sloman and France’s Logan Fontaine led two parallel lines into the finish, but Acerenza got around them, and wasn’t touched, winning by five and a half seconds ahead of Sloman, who was able to sprint away from the pack, finishing about four seconds ahead of Rasovszky.

Rasovszky was able to out-touch the likes of Great Britain’s Hector Pardoe, Hungary’s David Betlehem, Australia’s Kyle Lee, France’s Fontaine and Marc-Antoine Olivier who were all within a second of each other.

Many nations were using this event as a qualifier for the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha, where spots in the 2024 Olympics in Paris will be up for grabs.

Rasovszky won the overall title with 2500 points as he has already qualified for the 2024 Olympics because of his silver in the 10K at the 2023 Worlds. Italy’s Marcello Guidi finished second overall even with his tenth place finish today as he raced on all four stops and collected 2000 points. Betlehem was third at 1600 ahead of today’s champ Acerenza (1500).

Velly was the junior champion today as well as overall with 1600 points.