Gregorio Paltrinieri Hammers Home an Open Water Relay Gold for Italy


The Germans were a perfect 4-for-4 in open water races coming into the final event of the competition, the 4×1500 open water relay, but without the world’s leading open water swimmer, Florian Wellbrock, they faced an uphill battle on Thursday.

The deep German roster was still able to put forward the women’s 5k and 10k champion Leonie Beck, which was enough to keep them in 6th place, but that left them in just 3rd place among the teams that led off with two women. They would ultimately finish 4th to end their perfect gold medal performance of the meet.

The Australians, meanwhile, got big opening legs from Chelsea Gubecka and Moesha Johnson to take a lead among the FF-MM squads.

With most top nations choosing to swim their women first and then their men, though, it was the Italian men who took control of the race. Domenico Acerenza pulled Italy within 7 seconds of Australia, and then Gregorio Paltrinieri, the 5k runner-up with arguably the most speed of any man in this field for a 1250m swim, pulled away from the Australian anchor Kyle Lee to win gold.

“We are really happy about this performance. It was a great race for every one of us. We really wanted to win, so it was our first time on the top of the podium in the relay. We are
really happy,” Paltrinieri said.

“The race was a little bit more difficult today because of the sea. It was a little bit wavy but anyway, we trained for that all year long. So we were prepared to swim in any condition.

“We knew we would have been a little bit far away from the top (in the first legs) but our girls were fantastic at keeping the gap as (little) as possible. Then Dominico did a great leg which was super good. He gave me a chance (to be) in the right position so I could do whatever I wanted to. It was great.”

Joining the Italians in that chasedown were the Hungarian men, Kristof Rasovszky and David Bethlehem. They too overcame the Australians to take silver, while Lee won a touch over Germany’s Oliver Klemet to take bronze.

“It was good, it is very exciting and we are really happy with the silver medal,” Rasovsky said. “Last year in Budapest we also (placed) second. For our strategy, it is always the same two girls to the front and two boys to the back and (we try to) beat everything (in front of us).”

“It was fun. We changed the tactics from last year and I was the last swimmer,” Bethlehem said. “Last year, I was third and it was a little bit easier, not too much pressure on me. But this year was great.
I was the last one. I went with Gregorio and he went to a really good place and I was able to be on his feet but I couldn’t go next to him and beat him in the last meters. That’s why I’m a little bit sad, but I’m very happy with the silver medal.”

Top Finishers, 4x1250m Mixed Relay

  1. Italy – 1:10:31.2
  2. Hungary – 1:10:35.3
  3. Australia – 1:11:26.7
  4. Germany – 1:11:26.9
  5. France – 1:11:40.6
  6. Brazil – 1:13:07.4
  7. Japan – 1:13:38.5
  8. Spain – 1:13:41.8
  9. USA – 1:13:58.6
  10. Canada – 1:14:11.8

The American bucked convention and swam Male-Male-Female-Female in the race. Leadoff legs by Joey Tepper and Brennan Gravely left them in 3rd place as they handed off to Mariah Denigan and 10k bronze medalist Katie Grimes, but ultimately they finished 9th.

The American pool swimming team arrived in Fukuoka over the last 24 hours, and they appeared at the event to serve as a cheering squad for their open water teammates. The group of Kieran Smith, Claire Weinstein, Bella Sims, and Jake Mitchell were at the open water venue for the relay. Weinstein and Sims are club training partners of Grimes at the Sandpipers of Nevada club in Las Vegas.

Final Open Water Medals Table

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Germany 4 0 1 5
2  Italy 1 1 1 3
 Hungary 0 2 0 1
3  Australia 0 1 1 2
 Netherlands 0 1 0 1
6  Brazil 0 0 1 1
 United States 0 0 1 1
Totals (7 entries) 4 4 4 12

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4 months ago

I wonder how much even the US stars actually train open water. Denigan, Gravely, and Tepper are all at collegiate programs. How often are they getting into actual open water? Swimming in open water is complete different than pool swimming without walls, with turn buoys, and with a lot of physical contact and drafting. While you can put in the yardage in the pool, you can’t practice those skills well. I would love to see a dedicated open water program (or at least some elite training camps a few times per year) in the US where these athletes could get specific training so we can compete on the world stage.

4 months ago

Not sure how Oliver Klement will do in the 400 Free after 10K, 5K, and the relay.
Wellbrock will have until the 25th until the 800 Free.

4 months ago

That’s kind of an embarrassing showing for US.

Reply to  MSC
4 months ago

It is, however swimming in the US is geared towards the short pool, and there is no open water series held in the US.

Most of the European distance stars also swim open water, unlike in the US. Yes, we have one or two open water stars but their names are not Ledecky and Finke.

There are other factors at play as well that might militate against an open water culture here in the US.

4 months ago

Unless Rasovszky’s silver in the 10k has been taken away, Hungary has 2 silver medals.

4 months ago

Let open water have the mixed relays!

4 months ago

Medal table is missing Australia’s bronze from today and Italy’s gold.

Reply to  Joel
4 months ago

And Hungary’s silver from the relay (they earned 2 silver in total for the championships).

Exciting race with the different tactics but oh boy Germany must be spewing that Wellbrock was unavailable to swim for them. Really thought they had the bronze even without him but Kyle Lee snatched it at the touch.

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  SHRKB8
4 months ago

Why was Wellbrock unavailable?

Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
4 months ago

Preparing for his sprint distances…

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of 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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