At first, Florian Wellbrock didn’t know whether to laugh or be sad. The defending champion over 1500 meters freestyle won his second world championship medal at the swimming world championships in Budapest on Saturday evening in the Duna Arena with bronze, but his big project was gold. Nothing came of it because the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri swam away from the other favorites who were stalking each other, was even more than three seconds under the world record and simply could not be caught. And in the final sprint, Olympic champion Bobby Finke from the USA was again faster than Wellbrock.
After three silver medals by Lukas Märtens, Anna Elendt and Wellbrock, it was the fourth precious metal for the German team at the end of the cymbal competitions in Budapest. This means that the German swimmers have the best record since the 2009 World Cup. The icing on the cake, a world title, was denied to them in the pool.
“I won bronze,” said Wellbrock, emphasizing that it was no longer easy to get on the podium in this discipline. “That might have been the case a few years ago, but not anymore with the power density. I came close to my best time,” remarked the open water Olympic champion.
National coach Bernd Berkhahn was ambivalent after the race. He would have signed the time before the competition. “But he just came out of the water and said he hadn’t exhausted himself and could continue swimming,” criticized the coach and said Wellbrock was too much based on Finke. “That was something to behave with,” said Berkhahn.
Wellbrock had his special focus on the 1500 meters. After winning the heat against strong competition, he placed great value on rapid regeneration. That was a new training goal developed by national coach Bernd Berkhahn in the run-up to the competitions in Hungary. The looseness should not be neglected either.
Wellbrock was also seen doing a few quick laps on Saturday morning before the morning session, repeatedly discussing with Berkhahn, but also as a fun cannon. For example, when freestyle swimmer Rafael Miroslaw swam a sprint unit over 25 meters, Wellbrock jumped his arms back and forth on the edge of the pool and then laughed loudly in a winning pose.
“I knew that Gregorio (Paltrinieri) would start quickly, but I hadn’t thought that he would be so quick,” Wellbrock outlined the finale. And in the final sprint he got the water from Finke. “I swam right next to him for the first time. He ate me up like that. He’s making waves, it’s unbelievable,” said the 24-year-old and was nevertheless very happy about the Magdeburg team result. His club colleague Lukas Märtens was fourth, the Ukrainian Mychajlo Romantschuk, who was part of the training group, was fifth. “Then we can go home to the hotel very satisfied,” said Wellbrock.
The 4×1500 meter relay in open water is already up for him on Sunday. “I have to recover quickly now. But a lot is easier in a team,” said Wellbrock.
Before his bronze medal, Anna Elendt had also presented himself in fifth place over 50 meters breaststroke and Ole Braunschweig in sixth place over 50 meters backstroke. “I was pretty excited and at 50 there’s only one thing that’s wrong. I wanted too much and then the frequency was too high. It just didn’t fit,” said the silver medalist in the 100m breaststroke, who swam in black instead of her usual pink suit. “I wanted to put on a new suit over 50, but unfortunately I didn’t have a pink one anymore,” said Elendt.
“I am happy. Sixth in the world,” said Braunschweig, who also benefited from the disqualification of American Justin Ress, who dived too long after the start. “The Americans always like to push that, this time it was a bit too far,” said the Berliner, who then finished sixth in the 4×100 meter medley relay together with Lucas Matzerath, Eric Friese and Rafael Miroslaw.