GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) – After 10 kilometres of open-water swimming in the sea, world championship organisers needed a photo finish to determine the winner of the Olympic qualifier yesterday.
Florian Wellbrock of Germany edged France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier by two-tenths of a second to take the gold medal. The 21-year-old Wellbrock finished in one hour, 47 minutes, 55.90 seconds, shading Olivier at the finish.
Another German swimmer, Rob Muffels, earned bronze in 1:47.57.40.
Wellbrock and Olivier were locked in a two-man race for the gold medal in a final 200-metre sprint to the finish line. The group in close pursuit included Muffels, who used his experience to emerge from that tight bunch to finish third.
Wellbrock was the race and pace leader for much of the event. The few times that he was not leading he was in the top three and dropped back to sixth only briefly to conserve his energy for the final sprint.
“I believe that working together with Rob and also training at altitude helped both of us,” Wellbrock said. “I admit that it’s a big and also a hard step to be on the podium next year in Tokyo, but with hard work it may be possible.”
Wellbrock said he plans to also swim in two pool events at Tokyo, including the 1,500-metre race.
Hungarian swimmer Kristof Rasovszky, who won the five-kilometre race last Saturday, was fourth in 1:47.59.50 while American Jordan Wilimovsky, who won silver at the last world titles, was fifth in a time of 1:48.01.00.
The top 10 finishers in the race earned spots for their countries in next year’s 10-kilometre race at the Tokyo Olympics.