Leonie Beck Completes Open Water Sweep with 5k Victory Over van Rouwendaal, Cunha


26-year-old German Leonie Beck backed up Saturday’s 10-kilometer victory with a 5k win on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to sweep both events at the World Championships since 2007.

Russia’s Larisa Ilchenko was the last to achieve the feat at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.

Beck touched first in 59:31.70, one second ahead of the Netherlands’ Sharon van Rouwendaal (59:32.70) and two seconds ahead Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha (59:33.90).

“I’m really happy, Beck said. “I didn’t believe I could win a medal in the 5k after the hard 10k race. The 10k event was also a qualification (for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games) so that (added) a lot of pressure. Mentally it’s not easy, but I’m really happy that I could win the 5k. I never would have thought of it.

“I tried to save a bit of energy in the first lap but there are only 3 laps so you cannot be saving too much energy. I hit something during the race and got something in my eye. Because of that I (dropped back) a lot of places after the first buoy. I had to catch the group at one point after one and a half laps. I (tried) to catch the feet of Ana. Then I tried my best to go in front and raced till the end.”

The 26-year-old van Rouwendaal won the 10k at the 2016 Olympics and 2022 World Championships while Cunha was the two-time defending world champion in the 5k and the reigning Olympic champion in the 10k.

“Ana Marcela was holding me back a little bit but I came very close,” van Rouwendaal said. “So I’m very happy with this race. I never got a medal in the 5k in worlds, so I’m very happy with this one. Next plan is to (race in) a world cup in Paris in two and half weeks and then a holiday and then the new next season will start.”

Portugal’s Angelica Andre (59:35.60), Italy’s Barbara Pozzobon (59:35.80), Brazil’s Viviane Jungblut (59:38.20), France’s Aurelie Muller (59:40.10), and Hungary’s Bettina Fabian (59:44.20) rounded out the top eight finishers at Seaside Momochi Beach Park in Fukuoka, Japan.

Beck won the 10km title in 2:02:34.00, four seconds ahead of Australia’s Chelsea Gubecka. Women’s 10k bronze medalist Katie Grimes opted not to swim Tuesday’s 5k after becoming the first American to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics on Saturday. The 17-year-old Grimes still has the 400 IM and 1500 freestyle on her program in the pool next week.

Beck’s victory also made it 3-for-3 for Germans so far in open water events with Florian Wellbrock cruising to a win in the men’s 10k two days ago. The men’s 5k began two hours after the women’s 5k.

Women’s 5k – Top 8 Finishers

  1. Leonie Beck (GER) – 59:31.70
  2. Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) – 59:32.70
  3. Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) – 59:33.90
  4. Angelica Andre (POR) – 59:35.60
  5. Barbara Pozzobon (ITA) – 59:35.80
  6. Viviane Jungblut (BRA) – 59:38.20
  7. Aurelie Muller (FRA) – 59:40.10
  8. Bettina Fabian (HUN) – 59:44.20

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4 months ago

Beck is going to be tough to beat next year. Smart, unusually talented, a fantastic closer, not to mention that anyone who swims in the slipstream in the middle of the pack for much of the race while wearing Swedes is definitely tough.

Reply to  GTS
4 months ago

I would not be so sure so soon.

Cunha just return from Injury, and Sharon is still here also. and they are experienced on multiple weather situations (And arguably the best OW swimmers of all time). Last olympics they were on the toes of Beck at the whole race and at the last gate they just opened a 3 second gap to Beck.

She is talented, but I would never bet against Cunha and Sharon

Reply to  Rafael
4 months ago

It could happen. As far as world and Olympic championship accomplishments, Cunha is probably the best ever, especially taking into account that her strongest event was actually the 25K. Her range between 5K-25K, coupled with unmatched longevity in the sport, is nothing less than spectacular. She could win anything at anytime. She’s the top of charts in the history of the sport.

Regarding Beck, she will be difficult. As I noted, hard to beat. How she won that 10K was very similar to how Maarten Van Der Weijden won the 2008 Olympics 10K. Just like Van Der Weijden, she stayed in the pack, drafted, fed well, and when she made her move, she went on a separate line, just… Read more »

Reply to  GTS
4 months ago

We will have to see if this strategy will work again.. Beck led almost the whole race at Tokyo, and was first on the 12th gate, only at 13th Cunha and Sharon passed her.

2022 Worlds she was first at the last 2 gates also.. she changed her strategy..

Seems like everyone who is ahead on the end gets passed…

And I have to say, I miss they doing the OW at an ACTUALLY OW location, with all the waves and stuff

Reply to  Rafael
4 months ago

I don’t know much about the Paris course, other than they have some test events coming up. The course is indeed significant relative to rough conditions or the opposite.

I think Melouli won in 2012 because it was flat water, which favors pool/speed swimmers. Same for Eva Risztov that year.

At 36, Gianniotis basically had it won in Rio, and he loved rough conditions. He was a distant 4th in London, and further back in Beijing, both flat water courses. Risztov had trouble in Rio, whereas Van Rouwendaal was just unbeatable that day. Her French training partner at the time, Aurelie Muller, who has a similar background to Cunha as far a longevity, had the silver won, but… Read more »

Reply to  Rafael
4 months ago

Sharon probably has the most interesting pedigree of any open water swimmer ever.
Long course Worlds bronze medalist in the 200m backstroke (2:07)
Long course Worlds silver medalist in the 400m freestyle (4:03)
World short course 4×200 free relay champion (1:52.73 split) WR for Netherlands
Worlds silver medalist in the 5k, 10k and 25k
Olympic gold and silver in the 10k

Interestingly enough, her PBs in the 800 and 1500 don’t correspond at all with how fast she is in the 400 for her endurance level, as she’s only gone 8:24 and 16:03 respectively.

4 months ago

Superb competition by Beck

Surprised by Ana, I expected worse from her (Surgery 8 months ago, changed coach a month ago).

Ana and Sharon still showing their longevity on this sport and that they are a force to be reckoned in Paris

4 months ago

Wellbrock‘s win in the 5k was so expected at this point that we don’t even need an article apparently

The unoriginal Tim
4 months ago

What does it mean ‘Ana was holding me back a little bit?’

Does it mean with tactics/positioning or physically (which would be against the rules).

4 months ago

Open waters sweep won,
Leonie Beck’s triumph shines bright,
History reborn.

cant kick cant pull
4 months ago

does bernd coach both beck and sharon?

Reply to  cant kick cant pull
4 months ago

I think I read somehwere earlier this year that Beck has been training in Rome (Aniene?) for quite a while now.

Last edited 4 months ago by FST
Reply to  cant kick cant pull
4 months ago

Beck is training with Paltrinieri in Italy. Sharon’s training under Bernd with Wellbrock.

Reply to  liemse
4 months ago

Who can blame her after the clusterf… in Würzburg

She was never coached by Berkhahn though as far as I know.

Last edited 4 months ago by FST
Popovici 1:39.99
4 months ago

Larisa Ilchenko was the last to achieve this feat back at the 2008 FINA Open Water World Championships in Seville.


Reply to  Popovici 1:39.99
4 months ago

Maybe since it wasn’t a complete world
Championships, it’s not counting (since no swimming or polo). Just a guess

Reply to  LBSWIM
4 months ago

2008 was just the open water world championship (that event is no longer held), not the full bi-ennial aquatic world championships (the 2023 version of which is currently being held in Fukuoka).

4 months ago

No Grimes?

Reply to  MSC
4 months ago

She didn’t swim. Took a spot and then didn’t show up for the race.

Reply to  IMO
4 months ago

Does it mean Grimes won’t be able to race 5k in Paris or she has other possibilitiy to qualify?

Reply to  Tomek
4 months ago

There is only 10k at Paris
Personally 25k should be added

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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