Open Water Guys and a Sentimental Favorite

Open Water Guys and a Sentimental Favorite

At the 2022 FINA World Championships in the pool in Hungary, a slew of open water swimming guys showcased their speed and stamina in the 800m freestyle finals including the sentimental favorite, Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine.

Similar to the same event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the race in Budapest shaped up to be between guys who have put some time in the open water (Bobby Finke of the USA, Florian Wellbrock of Germany, Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy, and Guilherme Costa of Brazil) against Romanchuk whose father and coach went off to defend Ukraine during the recent Russian invasion.

It is the first time in memory that so many of the fastest men in the world – both in the pool and the open water – will enter a week-long competition, competing in the 800m and 1500m preliminary heats and finals and the 5 km open water race and the 10 km marathon swim in Lake Lupa where Romanchuk is also entered along with Wellbrock and Paltrinieri.

This head-to-head competition in the pool and open water reminds us of the answer that two-time Olympian Keri-anne Payne once gave at the 2005 FINA World Championships to a media question, “Are you a pool swimmer or do you consider yourself an open water swimmer?

She answered simply, “I am a swimmer.”

800m Freestyle Results (detailed split times here)

  1. Bobby Finke (USA) 7:39.36
  2. Florian Wellbrock (Germany) 7:39.63
  3. Mykhailo Romanchuk (Ukraine) 7:40.05
  4. Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy) 7:41.19
  5. Guilherme Costa (Brazil) 7:45.48
  6. Gabriele Detti (Italy) 7:47.75
  7. Damien Joly (France) 7:48.10
  8. Daniel Wiffin (Ireland) 7:50.63

SwimSwam reported about Romanchuk talking about his father and where he sees his own role in the conflict – and how Germany’s Wellbrock has come to his aid. “[My father’s in a hot spot and it’s a hard time. It’s not possible for them to [speak over the telephone] because the Russians can search everything. But every morning he sends me (a message) that he is OK.

My mind was to go to the war to defend my home, [but] we decided that I cannot do anything with the gun. For me, it’s better to continue training, to do everything that I do best. With my swimming, I can tell all the world about the situation in Ukraine.”

The man who finished second ahead of him – Olympic 10K Marathon Swim champion Wellbrock – trains with him in Germany.

The rivalry is intense – the differences are merely tenths of seconds – but the brotherhood and mutual respect among all these swimmers is also profoundly strong.

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Steven Munatones