2021 Swammy Awards: Male Open Water Swimmer of the Year Florian Wellbrock

2021 World Open Water Male Swimmer of the Year: Florian Wellbrock, Germany

In a year crushed by COVID, the landscape of open water swimming was impeccably thin. Besides the Olympic Games, the only major international competitions were the open water races at the European championships, and the year-ending FINA 10km event held in conjunction with the Short Course World Championships.

With the Olympic gold medal and the win at the year-ending win, then, the slam-dunk winner is Florian Wellbrock of Germany.

The only blemish on his roster was a bronze medal in the premier 10km event at the European Championships in May, behind Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri and France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier.

But he got his revenge a few months later, dominating the Olympic race by 25.3 seconds, which is the largest margin in Olympic history by far. The previous largest margin was Ous Mellouli’s 2012 win, where he won by 3.4 seconds.

While this is a strictly open water honor, Wellbrock’s ability to stand out in both the pool and open water is becoming increasingly-impressive – even as more pool swimmers transition into open water. The challenge of tapering his way to a bronze medal in the 1500 free in the pool on August 1 and then, four days later, stretch himself out to a 10km swim, almost a two hour race, cannot be overstated.

After breaking the World Record in the short course 1500 free to end his year, it feels like Wellbrock is just scratching the surface of his potential. Next year will be a different challenge – with pool swimming (usually) coming first at the World Aquatics Championships, he’ll have to reverse what he did in Tokyo. Then he’ll have to come back and do it again at the European Championships, again the opposite of 2021, before ending with another Short Course World Championship meet.

This is Wellbrock’s second award; he previously won in 2019.

Honorable Mentions

  • Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy – Another swimmer taking on serious challenges in both the pool and open water, Paltrinieri was 2nd in the 800 free, 4th in the 1500 free, and 3rd in the 10km race at the Olympic Games. On top of that, he won three European gold medals in open water (out of a possible four), taking the 5km, 10km, and team open water golds. Already an Olympic gold medalist in the pool, Paltrinieri has shown an interest in shifting more-and-more toward open water. We might see him on top of the podium in Paris.
  • Kristof Rasovsky, Hungary – The open water specialist of the three honorees, 24-year old Rasovsky took a silver medal at the Olympics. He only picked up one medal at the European Championships, in the team relay, but he did earn a bronze medal at the year-ending Short Course Worlds companion event. He also gave Wellbrock the biggest push in the Olympics – he was only 4 seconds back at the 12th of 14 checkpoints before the German accelerated away over the last half-kilometer.

Previous Winners

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Sam B
2 years ago

what about Claire?

2 years ago

Open water seems like too small of a category. By default whoever wins gold at the major meet is going to take the award. A distance award would make more sense to me.

Reply to  RAP
2 years ago

Bite your tongue you pool-dweller..

2 years ago

Well deserved, especially his 10k-performance in tokyo was outstanding! I’m looking forward to the competitions this year, he already confirmed that he has his eyes on the 1500m LCM world record.

14.31 is safe for now.
Reply to  classic_swimmer
2 years ago

I don’t agree with you on the WR.

Most distance swimmers go their PB at the age of 20 or 21. My boy is heading into his 25th year.

Sun Yang came home faster than Finke, while holding a higher pace.

Juiced or not, Sun Yang is physically gifted being 2m tall and having a 2.11cm wingspan.

Open fan
2 years ago

Any news on Jordan? He is our only hope for Paris Open Water.

Reply to  Open fan
2 years ago

The disrespect 🥺

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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