Leonie Beck and Florian Wellbrock were honoured as the 2023 Open Water Swimmers of the Year on Wednesday morning at the Old Doha Port in Qatar in part for winning both the 5km and 10km at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka last year.

Each of them earned automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics by virtue of their gold medals in the 10km in last year’s World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023.

Image Source: Leonie Beck looks fast and relaxed heading into the 10km in Doha (Hiroyuki NAKAMURA/World Aquatics)

Beck, age 26, was also the World Cup champion last year and is one of the favourites to win the 10km gold medal later this summer at the Paris Olympics.

“It's a really really big honour,” Beck told World Aquatics on Wednesday morning in Doha. “It's the first time I received an award like this. I feel incredibly honored to be named Athlete of the Year by World Aquatics.

“Last year was a really perfect year for me. Most important was that I earned Olympic qualification, I got two gold medals at the World Championships in Fukuoka. And on top of that is this Athlete of the Year and I am really proud of this recognition.”

Beck was competing at the World Aquatics Championships - Doha 2024, where she was 14th in the 5km and 20th in the 10km. She trains with coach Fabrizio Antonelli in Ostia, Italy.

Image Source: Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

“This World Championships was not the best for me, I may be disappointed but at the same time it's OK because I can turn the page and look forward,” Beck said.

“We have more competitions ahead and the most important one is in August. Of course, to make a great race at the Olympic Games is what counts this year. Almost everyone I train with qualified for the Paris Olympics. We have strong and powerful men and women training together each with the same goals. We hope to make a great race(s) in Paris.  It's nice if you can train together and continue the journey together.”

Image Source: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Wellbrock, also age 26, won both the 5km and 10km World titles last year.

“It is pretty nice to be the male open water swimmer of the 2023,” Wellbrock told World Aquatics. “I think we had a great year and championships last year in Fukuoka. Four gold medals for the team Germany was amazing.”

Wellbrock competed in Doha at these World Championships, finishing ninth in the 5km and 29th in the 10km, as he shifts his preparation towards the Olympic Games this summer.

“There has been a lot of hard work since then. We have an Olympic season and for sure, here it is the World championship in Doha but the main thing for this year is the Olympic Games in Paris. So I think it is OK to not be on the podium this year. But I will be back in Paris.”

Image Source: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Wellbrock trains with coach Bernd Berkhahn in Magdeburg, Germany and will be one of the favourites to win multiple medals in Paris this summer across the open water and pool venues.

“I think everybody knows that Germany is a pretty strong open water nation. So Leonie and I did a really great job last year. It was quite dominant in the open water. Now, a lot of hard work and the training camp – we spend a lot of time in the high altitude in Spain and hard work always pays off. It will be the key for the success in Paris.

“It is pretty cool what is planned for Paris. It will be my first open water race in the river. It will be a new and nice experience.”