Leonie Beck was very happy about silver after a thrilling sprint to the finish line. Exhausted but always smiling, the 25-year-old spoke on the sandy beach of Lupa Lake in bright sunshine about her first world championship medal in the Olympic ten kilometers in open water swimming.
At the award ceremony in front of shiny water, she gave the precious metal a kiss. “A medal at a world championship is really great. In the end you also need a little bit of luck. But second in this field is really, really good,” said Beck.
In a furious three-way battle for the podium places, she had to admit defeat to Sharon van Rouwendaal from the Netherlands in the photo finish, but came in just ahead of Ana Marcela Cunha from Brazil on Wednesday.
“I’m happy that it finally worked out at a world championship,” said Beck, who won gold on Sunday in the relay with Olympic champion Florian Wellbrock. Looking at the strenuous race in the lake on the outskirts of Budapest, which was already 27.6 degrees early in the morning, she said with a laugh: “I don’t want to do anything anymore right now.”
After finishing fourth over five kilometers two days earlier, Beck swam much more aggressively and even looked like the winner with 200 meters to go. However, Van Rouwendaal had the higher top speed and finished after 2:02:29.20 hours – five tenths of a second ahead of Beck. A second behind was Olympic champion and five-kilometer world champion Cunha. The second German starter, Lea Boy, took eighth place.
At the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Beck competed as a pool swimmer. She was eliminated in the 800 meter freestyle. Since things in the pool weren’t going as planned, the woman from Würzburg switched to open water. In the outdoor sport, which depends not only on speed and endurance, but also on tactical finesse, experience and assertiveness, she had a hard time at the beginning. That is past. At the World Championships in South Korea in 2019, she won bronze over five kilometers, and at the Olympics in Tokyo she was very satisfied with fifth place.
“I was really looking forward to the race. I’m really enjoying it now,” said Beck. The heat in Hungary didn’t bother her. “I think I’ve established myself in the open water and I’ve already reached the top somewhere.” After a bit of rest, she wants to give everything again this Thursday. However, not in the water, but to support Boy in the 25-kilometer race. “Tomorrow I’ll support with everything that’s still in my body,” said Beck.
Florian Wellbrock came third in the men’s race and thus won his fifth World Championships medal. The 24-year-old had to settle for third place in 1:51:11.20 hours despite a confident performance for a long time. The new world champion was the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who won his second title in Budapest. He had previously become Wellbrock’s successor as world champion in the 1500 meter freestyle. He won ahead of his compatriot Domenico Acerenza. Niklas Frach was seventh.