2019 Open Water Male Swimmer of the Year: Florian Wellbrock, Germany
22-year old German swimmer Florian Wellbrock stormed the open water scene in 2019. In 2018, he was primarily known as a pool swimmer, which included winning the long course European Championship gold medal in Glasgow in the 1500 free.
That year, he did swim open water at the European Championships as well, but only as part of the German group in the team event, which won silver. He had no individual entries.
In 2019, however, that changed. At the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, he won the sport’s premier event, the open water 10km swim, in a photo finish ahead of a group of 3 swimmers that included last year’s Open Water Male Swimmer of the Year: Kristof Rasovsky of Hungary.
Wellbrock didn’t swim the 5km or 25km races at Worlds, nor the team event (where Germany won gold anyway), but that’s because he also had pool-swimming duties in Gwangju. He became the first swimmer ever to pull off the 10km open water/1500 pool double at a major international competition.
For good measure, he added a win in the 10km race at the Doha stop of the FINA Marathon Swimming Series in February, though his overall participation in the series was limited.
In a sport that has been, for much of its history, dominated by veterans in their late 20s and into their 30s, has seen an explosion of youth on the men’s side With the 22-year olds Wellbrock and Rasovsky at the front of the pack, the sport is pushing forward toward Tokyo.
- Kristof Rasovsky, Hungary: Rasovsky finished just 4th in the premier 10km event at the World Championships, the 10km race, and also added a gold medal in the 5km event. He wound up taking home the series title in the FINA Marathon Swimming World Series as well after winning 3 of the tour’s 9 races, and along with it a $50,000 grand prize.
- Axel Reymond, France: In a race that lasted nearly 5 hours at the World Championships, the battle for the 25km title still came down to whether Reymond or Kirill Belyaev of Russia could get their hand out of the water and on to the suspended touchpad quickest. In a race where both Rasovsky, above, and 10km silver medalist Marc-Antoine Olivier started the race but didn’t finish, Reymond persevered with a finish that open water racers dream of.
- 2012 – Ous Mellouli, Tunisia (Co-Ed Award)
- 2013 – Thomas Lurz, Germany
- 2014 – Ferry Weertman, Netherlands
- 2015 – Jordan Wilimovsky, United States
- 2016 – Ferry Weertman, Netherlands
- 2017 – Ferry Weertman, Netherlands
- 2018 – Kristof Rasovsky, Hungary
- 2019 – Florian Wellbrock, Germany