France’s Logan Fontaine pulled the upset on Wednesday morning at the Old Doha Port in the men’s 5km at the World Aquatics Championships - Doha 2024. With all the attention on 10km champion Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary, and defending World champ Florian Wellbrock of Germany, it was neither of them standing on the podium for the men’s 5km.

Fontaine sung his national anthem under the Qatar sun alongside his countryman Marc-Antoine Olivier, who won the silver in a big finish for French swimming as he added to his silver in the 10km from Sunday.

“To see two French guys on the podium makes me feel more confident before the relay tomorrow,” Fontaine said. “Marc won a medal at 10K and I wanted to do it too. It is also a good thing before Paris. So at this moment I feel very cool. For this moment, I try to relax a bit and work on the pressure before the Olympics in my home country. I will take that just like another competition.”

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Fontaine, age 24, won his third medal at the World Aquatics Championships, but his first since winning silver in the 5km at Gwangju 2019.

Olivier, age 27, won his sixth career medal at the Worlds, and will be headed to his third Olympics this summer alongside Fontaine.

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“It is a special thing that we are organising the Olympic Games, so it's good for this season,” Olivier said. “Now we need to focus on the relay tomorrow because we have a very good team. After the World Championship, we need to be focused on the Olympic Games and try to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

“Winning a medal before the Olympics is very good publicity for my sport. It will cause a lot of the public to see the races because we have a chance to swim inside the parks. I think it's one of the sports where people want to see the open water.”

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The bronze went the way of Italy’s Domenico Acerenza, who won his sixth career World Championships medal at age 29.

“I'm very satisfied with the result because getting a medal in the World Championships is always something big, but I want to be the best in every race,” Acerenza said. “I feel good because I gave the race my all, and I'm very happy for this. I will meet with my coach, and we will look at areas we need to work more on, and hopefully the result will be better next time.”

The Race

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There was a lot of anticipation around this race as there didn’t seem to be a clear favourite coming in. The last three World champions were in the race with the likes of Wellbrock (2022, 2023), Rasovszky (2019), and Olivier (2017) as well as pool Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy.

The water was reported at 19.4 degrees Celsius with the air temperature climbing to 23.4 during the men’s race.

The water was calmer than the 10km from Sunday, but even with no Olympic qualifications at stake, the “sprint” race was still intense.

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Wellbrock grabbed the lead early, sprinting to the front to dictate the pace, something he likes to do in each race he competes in. He led the field through the first lap over the likes of the Hungarian duo of Rasovszky and David Betlehem through 1600 meters.

But Wellbrock couldn’t quite hold on to the early pacing, as Paltrinieri and Rasovszky pounced on lap two, leading the chase pack of Wellbrock, Olivier and Betlehem in a line.

Through two laps and 3200 meters, Paltrinieri and Wellbrock led with Rasovszky and Olivier in pursuit as the heavyweights showed out. Acerenza and Fontaine were in the chase pack within striking distance, waiting for the right opportunity to pounce.

It appeared Wellbrock and Paltrinieri were going to run away with the race over the final 1500 meters, as those two have been superstars in the pool and have transformed open water swimming into a star-driven sport.

But Olivier breached the lead pack and was going stroke for stroke with Paltrinieri as Acerenza started to make a move as well. Wellbrock was dropped from the lead pack on the final lap, and couldn’t regain the lead as Rasovszky and Betlehem tried to join the fray.

As the group inched closer to the finish line, Fontaine slowly but surely moved his way up. With all the attention on the duel between Paltrinieri and Olivier, Fontaine breached the top two as he dropped Rasovszky and Acerenza from the lead pack.

On the final straightaway, each of the top five tried to form their own line, believing they could grab the gold medal. As they convened into the finish chute, the two Italians and two Frenchmen were jostling for position, and Fontaine came out of it untouched to grab the gold medal despite not leading the race at any point during it.

Fontaine won the photo finish at 51:29.3 with Olivier winning the silver at 51:29.6, and Acerenza grabbing the bronze at 51:30.0.

Fontaine upgraded his fourth place finish from the 10km to win gold in the 5km.

“I was not expecting gold but I was hoping for a medal,” Fontaine said after the race. “I was really disappointed and frustrated after the 10K competition as I did fourth place. So today, I wanted to make sure I do not make the same mistake again. I was very hungry for the medals.

“I managed myself all the way and I was ready to sprint in the end. My plan was to catch up and to finish the best I can. I know I have a big kick so I tried to save it for the finish.  I did everything as I wanted to do. At the end, I stayed off of the other men and in the last meters; I was focused to touch as the first.”

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Olivier won his second silver medal of the championships, and will join forces tomorrow with Fontaine in the mixed relay.

“For me, it's very incredible to swim inside the parks,” Olivier said. “I don't think I missed something by not winning the gold.

“It's very hard to have a medal in the 10k and the 5k,” Olivier said. “It's the same as the last World Championship, where only Wellbrock won two gold medals, so I'm very happy to win silver today. In less than one second, I could have won the gold medal, but it's a French guy who won today. It's ok for me, it went to my country, so it's perfect.”

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Acerenza and Paltrinieri train together with coach Fabrizio Antonelli in Ostia, and will be the two male representatives for Italy in the relay tomorrow.

“It was a very strong race, and in the final I tried to push, push, push to take the gold medal, but in the last 20 meters, I was dead, and the other two French guys kept pushing,” Acerenza said. “All in all, I'm happy with the result. In the last buoy, I pushed all because I saw the other guys on the other part of me, and I tried to swim alone and swim fast, but I gave up.”

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Paltrinieri got caught at the finish trying to find his position and wound up fifth at 51:31.7 behind Rasovszky in fourth at 51:30.5.

The rest of the chase pack came in with Betlehem finishing sixth at 51:34.8 ahead of Greece’s Athanasios Kynigakis (51:36.1), Germany’s Oliver Klemet (51:36.4), Wellbrock (51:36.7), and Mexico’s Paulo Strehlke Delgado (51:36.8).