Traditionally, two women lead off the mixed open water relay, while two men swim the last two legs, but Kazakhstan and Egypt chose another tactic – they started with the male swimmers. Galymzhan Balabek from Kazahstan took the lead in the first 200m, where the six teams appeared in 3 groups, approaching the first buoy. The chasing group was led by Caroline Jouisse, followed by Ginevra Taddeucci, Paula Otero Fernandez and Lea Boy.

Balabek clocked a time of 17:58.7 after the first lap. Lea Boy was the first to reach the pontoon, followed by Team Italy, Spain and France, each separated by almost 2 seconds. Commenting on her swim, Lea Boy said: “I could concentrate on my swim, because there were not a lot of athletes around me, it was good and fast!” Caroline Jouisse added: “I could barely see the buoys because of the waves, but we lined up, after that it was easier. I concentrated on not being left behind by the other women. The leader was a guy from Kazakhstan, but we ladies stuck together.”

After the first change, Leonie Beck chased the gap but Kazakhstan held onto the first position with Lev Cherepanov in the water.

In a gripping race with windy conditions, nothing was decided on the first two laps.

Swimmers Oceane Cassignol and Barbara Pozzobon from France and Italy were swimming hard alongside Beck who was second after 2 laps. As the race continued, the gaps started to close as Domenico Acerenza took the lead, ahead of Jonas Kusche from Germany. 

On the third lap, the race was still tight. Italy, Spain, France, and Germany was the order after 4500m. 

Image Source: Islam Amr Laithy/Somabay

For the final 200 meters, the field was split - Marc-Antoine Olivier and Gregorio Paltrinieri battled for the gold. Olivier eventually secured the win for France, touching the panel just 0.1 seconds earlier, stopping the clock at 1:11:10.1.

Marc-Antoine Olivier was very happy after the relay: 

“It’s a great result for Team France, I’m so happy. Yesterday we did a good result on the 10km, I’m happy that we finished this World Cup with a gold medal.
By Marc-Antoine Olivier

"I know very well Gregorio Paltrinieri, he is one of the best in the field, it’s very hard to find a good strategy against him. I tried to save some energy during the 1500m, this is why I swam right behind Greg.”

Paltrinieri of Italy declared his happiness at securing two medals in Somabay; “I was really tired after yesterday, so I didn’t want to push hard. I knew Marc-Antoine would catch me, and it was all about the touch. It was extremely close. I think I was unlucky at the touch. Despite all this, it was a good race.”

The battle for third place was won by the team from Germany - Niklas Frach touched the panel 0.1 seconds faster than Spain’s Guillem Pujol. The bronze medalist Frach said: “I’m so happy, as my teammates are. It was a very tough finish. The tactic was to stay with the group and after the last buoy everything could happen. I felt I had to do well, but it was worth the minor stress.”

The first stop of the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup in Somabay, Egypt ended with this incredibly exciting competition. The next stop will be in Golfo Aranci, Italy from 24-25 May 2024.