Germany’s Florian Wellbrock powered to a gold-medal finish in the men’s 10K marathon swim at the Tokyo Olympics on 5 August 2021. Wellbrock controlled the race from the beginning, setting a blistering pace in extremely warm water at the Odaiba Marine Park, finishing in 1:48:33.7. That win put him a shocking 25 seconds ahead of second place finisher, Kristof Rasovsky of Hungary. Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri earned bronze. Matan Roditi of Israel and Athanasios Kynigakis of Greece rounded out the top five.
Wellbrock also earned a bronze medal in the men’s 1,500 meter freestyle. That medal, along with his gold in the marathon swim put him into a rare club; only two other swimmers, Oussama Mellouli of Tunisa, and Paltrinieri (who took silver in the 800-meter freestyle in Tokyo) have earned medals in both pool and open water swimming events in a single Olympics.
Wellbrock employed a smart strategy that took advantage of feed stations to top up on nutrition and fluids depleted by the warm water. Water temps topped 29 C (84.2 degrees F) when the race began, and only climbed from there.
Defending Olympic champion Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands finished 7th, closely following Marc-Antoine Oliver of France who earned bronze in Rio and swam shoulder-to-shoulder with Wellbrock for much of the race. Jordan Wilimovsky of the USA finish 10th.
Olympic legend Mellouli, also competed in Tokyo, finishing in 20th place. Mellouli made his Olympic debut at the 2000 Games in Sydney at just 16 years old. He competed at the 2004 Athens Games and earned gold in the 1500 in Beijing. At the 2012 London Games, Mellouli won the 10K and took bronze in the 1500. Mellouli’s participation had been in doubt leading up to the Tokyo event, because of a legal battle with the Tunisian swimming federation that resolved just days before the Games opened.