Gregorio Paltrinieri, Kristof Rasovszky, Domenico Acerenza and Leonie Beck, possess a total of 38 World and 37 European titles between them and will be among the main ‘ones-to-watch’ when then blue-ribbon 10km races take place on 12 June.

With 20 nations entered into the seven disciplines, Belgrade 2024 promises to offer a host of fascinating battles at the start of an action-packed summer of aquatic sport.

Men’s 10km Open Water

Image Source: Al Bello/Getty Images

Olympic champion Florian Wellbrock and his German World championship bronze medallist Oliver Klemet may be continuing their preparations for Paris 2024 elsewhere, but the majority of those expected to push for the podium in France are swimming in Serbia.

Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy is the most recognisable and decorated name in the field and is still a regular medal contender, but was a little off his best form in 2023 and will be looking to reassert his position as an Olympic title contender once more.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallist Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary will be looking to go one better this summer and heads into the Europeans as the reigning World champion following an impressive victory at Doha 2024 in February. 

The silver and bronze medallist from that event will also line-up at Belgrade 2024.

Frenchman Marc-Antoine Olivier, who was second in Doha, won Olympic bronze back at Rio 2016 and at the age of 27 is looking to hit ‘peak performance’ at his home Games.

Hector Pardoe of Great Britain has shown serious podium potential for much of his senior career, but after falling victim to a number of unfortunate race-related incidents his medal cabinet had remained somewhat bare.

That changed at the 2024 World championships though with Pardoe claimed a hard-earned bronze, a result he will be looking to build with a maiden European honour.

The challenge posed by Italian Domenico Acerenza should not be ruled out though, with the seven-time World medallist the defending European 10km champion.

Former world junior open water champion David Betlehem of Hungary is another one-to-watch, with Italian Dario Verani also another possible contender.

Women’s 10km Open Water

Image Source: Women's open water 10km at the 2023 World Cup event in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal (World Aquatics)

Defending champion – and also the 2023 double World gold medallist – Leonie Beck is the highest profile athlete in a star-studded women’s 10km field.

The conditions in Serbia are expected to be similar to those athletes are anticipating facing at Paris 2024 and the German will be looking to add valuable experience ahead of push for a first Olympic medal this summer.

Fellow German Lea Boy is traditionally strongest is the longer distance events, such as the 25km competition, but has the potential to mix it with the best over 10km.

Image Source: Bettina Fabian of Team Hungary during the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup in Golfo Aranci, Italy (Emanuele Perrone/Getty Images)

Hungarian world and European junior champion Bettina Fabian has begun to claim major senior scalps in the last 18 month and was a key part of her national 4x1500m team at the last two World championships, where they claimed silver and bronze respectively.

Italian Giulia Gabbrielleschi and Oceane Cassignol of France have both finished on the European 5km podium before and will aim to land maiden 10km major honours in Serbia.

18-year-old Louna Kasvio from Finland is the daughter of 1992 Olympic bronze medallist Antti Kasvio and is stepping up to senior open water competition after her major event debut at the 2023 European Short Course Championships in Romania.

Hungary’s three-time World and three-time European medallist Anna Olasz is set to complete her last European race, before retirement, at Belgrade 2024.

Men’s 5km Open Water

Image Source: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Although a non-Olympic discipline, many lining up for the 10km event will return for the half-distance competition to further test their race skills.

Some of the ‘major names’ featuring in the marathon swimming discipline drop out of this event – such as Pardoe, as well as Italian aces Acerenza and Paltrinieri.

However, the places of the latter two will be taken by senior national team debutants Vincenzo Caso and Andrea Filadelli , who will be keen to prove their potential ahead of a possible ‘changing of the guard’ heading towards the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Fellow Italian Marcello Guidi will complete their three-strong list of contenders, with Rasovszky, Betlehem and Olivier are again expected to be strong medal contenders.

Women’s 5km Open Water

Image Source: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Leonie Beck, who won the 5km event as part of her golden double at the 2023 World Championships, will contest the discipline at Belgrade 2024.

Her best European championship result over this distance came back at Glasgow 2018.

In addition to the return of FabianOlasz, Cassignol and MartinezGinevra Taddeucci is certainly one to keep and eye on during this event.

The Italian claimed a somewhat surprise silver in home waters at Roma 2022 and will keep to return to medal winning form in front of the crowds lining the Sava River.

Women’s and Men’s 25km

Image Source: Axel Reymond of France touches to win gold in the Men's 25km final at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Hungary (Getty Images)

The open water community has fought hard to retain the 25km event and after challenges with the weather forced the 2022 edition in Rome to conclude early, organisers and athletes alike are hopeful of a successfully executed event in Ada Ciganlija.

Axel Reymond of France leads a small but strong field in the men’s 25km race. 

The 2017 and 2019 World Champion will once again meet Italian Dario Verani, who denied Reymond’s historical World triple in 2022 by an extremely narrow margin. 

Mario Sanzullo, the retrospective winner of the 2022 European Championships race in Rome, and the 2021 European silver medallists Matteo Furlan, complete an Italian triple theat. 

Image Source: Caroline Laure Jouisse of France competes on the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup 2023 tour in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. (Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

Caroline Jouisse of France was the retrospective winner of the women’s 25km event at Rome 2022 and she will again face challenges from Italy – in the form of Veronica Santoni and Barbara Pozzobon, but 2021 victor, Leah Boy of Germany is also expected to be strong.

Team Event – Mixed 4x1500m Relay

Image Source: Domenico Acerenza, Gregorio Paltrinieri, Barbara Pozzobon and Ginevra Taddeucci of Team Italy celebrate winning gold in the Open Water 4x1500m Mixed Relay at the World Aquatics Championships - Fukuoka 2023 (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

A team event may have been part of the European championships since 16 years now. Still, real momentum has gathered around the discipline in recent years, particularly given the growth in interest around the 1500m distances in the pool programme.

Italy won the event in home waters at Roma 2022 and will be a tough team to beat in this year’s edition, but Hungary, France and  Germany could all be in contention for the podium places. 

Spain, Israel and Slovakia will also contest this event in Ada Ciganlija.