This year’s 10K at the World Championships in Doha will be a huge one for those with aspirations of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Paris this summer. The three medallists at last year’s 10K at the World Championships in Fukuoka secured the first bit of qualification for Paris, while the top 13 this week in Doha will automatically qualify for the Games.

Ana Marcela Cunha looking for the first step in Olympic defense in Doha

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

The pre-race favourite for the women’s race is Germany’s Leonie Beck, who was last year’s World champion and World Cup winner. Beck, age 26, has nothing to lose this week as she knows she is going to Paris based on her swim from last summer. She will line up alongside last year’s bronze medallist Katie Grimes, who at age 18 has already been celebrated back home in Las Vegas for qualifying for her second Olympics and her first in the open water venue.

With the pressure off of those two, perhaps that could elevate them to the top of the podium once again, but the ferocity of those trying to qualify may overpower them.

Image Source: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha is the defending Olympic champion, and will not go down without a fight. Despite overcoming some injuries in recent years, she will want to be there in France to defend her title.

Last year’s fourth-place finisher Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands will also be racing as one of the favorites to take the gold, as is Italy’s Ginevra Taddeucci.

Image Source: Sharon van Rouwendaal during her shakeout swim one day before the women's 10km at Old Doha Port in Doha (Istvan Derencsenyi/World Aquatics)

Van Rouwendaal was second in the World Cup standings last year to Beck and was the 2016 Olympic champion. She was involved in a photo finish at last year’s Worlds for the last spot on the podium between herself, Grimes, and Cunha, with the American touching first by one-tenth over the last two Olympic champions.

Van Rouwendaal, Cunha, and Taddeucci were in the lead pack for the entire two hour race in Fukuoka, and will be hungry to get back to the podium, something Cunha and van Rouwendaal have done many times in their careers, but Taddeucci has never.

Image Source: Italy’s Ginevra Taddeucci (Andrea Masini/Deepbluemedia/World Aquatics)

The Italian Taddeucci has had plenty of success at the World Championships in open water relays, but has never stood on the podium by herself. She was sixth in the 10K in Fukuoka.

Italy will also be represented by Arianna Bridi, who was seventh in last year’s World Cup overall, and beat a stacked field of swimmers to earn a chance to represent Italy here.

Image Source: Mike Lewis/World Aquatics

Also look for rising star in American Mariah Denigan as well as Hungary’s Bettina Fabian to vie for a top 13 spot as Denigan was eighth in Fukuoka and Fabian was fifth in the World Cup standings last year.

France has an automatic spot for the 10K as the host nation for the Olympics, but has two formidable competitors in Oceane Cassignol and Caroline Jouisse carrying the flag for them in Doha. Jouisse won one of the World Cup races last year over the likes of van Rouwendaal and Bridi, while Cassignol was 16th at the World Championships last year.

Image Source: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

One to look out for is China’s Xin Xin, who won the 2019 World title and will be flying under the radar.