Whe gladiator opened his arms to Florian Wellbrock and demanded even more applause from the audience: Germany’s leading swimmer crowned his already outstanding year with a show of power in a class of its own. At the end of the short course World Championship in Abu Dhabi, the superior Olympic champion secured the gold medal in the 1500 m freestyle in world record time and outclassed the assembled world elite.
“That’s unbelievable,” said the double world champion, visibly surprised by his gala appearance, “I didn’t expect that I would have the form for a world record.” When the national anthem was played during the award ceremony, there was a broad grin behind his dark FFP2- Wellbrock had broken the old record of the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri by more than a second in 14: 06.88 minutes.
Almost perfect finale
For this alone he received an extra premium of 50,000 US dollars from the world association FINA. Together with the prizes for his first places over 1,500 m and earlier in the Open Water World Cup, Wellbrock flies home from the Persian Gulf with 80,000 dollars more in his pocket. The Christmas presents for friend Sarah Köhler and the family shouldn’t be any more generous. “I’m not a lover of gifts anyway,” Wellbrock said recently.
But he’s a fan of competitions – and the 1,500 m final was almost perfect. Wellbrock dictated the race from the start, after eight minutes he finally pulled away from the field and in the end only swam against the imaginary line of the world record. “I had no real plan,” revealed the Magdeburg resident, “I just wanted to swim a good race.”
Wellbrock inflicted a hefty defeat on his big competitors at the end of the year, which could also be a pointer to the more important long-track World Cup in Japan in May 2022. In Abu Dhabi, silver went to 400 m Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui (Tunisia) ahead of the Ukrainian Michailo Romantschuk. However, both had only struck four seconds after the German swimmer. Paltrinieri finished fourth, more than 14 seconds behind.
For the German Swimming Association (DSV) it was the second medal in this year’s title fights on the 25-meter lane. Previously, back swimmer Christian Diener (Potsdam) had won silver in the 50m final.