Spain’s national governing body for swimming, Real Federación Española de Natación (RFEN), announced the 6 athletes that will represent the country in the open water events at the upcoming world championships, which are set to take place in Gwangju, China. The open water events will take place at Yeosu Expo Ocean Park between July 13 and July 19.
Given that the Olympics will take place next year, event selection is extremely important as the 10-kilometer is the only Olympic event for open water swimming. Finishing within the top 10 swimmers in the 10-kilometer race at Gwangju would earn those swimmers a free pass to next year’s Olympics. Furthermore, if one of Spain’s swimmers qualified then for Tokyo all other Spanish swimmers are mapped out.
The 6 selected swimmers and the events they will be taking part in are as follows:
- Paula Ruiz (CN Mairena Aljarafe): 5 and 10-kilometer
- María de Valdés (CN Liceo): 5-kilometer
- María Vilas (CN Galaico): 10-kilometer
- Raúl Santiago (CN Metropole): 5-kilometer
- Alberto Martínez (CN Marina Cartagena): 10 and 25-kilometer
- Guillem Pujol (CN Mataró): 5 and 10-kilometer
The LEN Open Water Cup which took place in Brive (France) served as Spain’s open water world championship trials. There, 20-year-old Paula Ruiz shined bright as the world junior champion in 2016 and 2018 crossed the finish line before Sharon van Rouwendaal, who is the Rio 2016 Olympic champion in the 10-kilometer event. Ruiz posted a time of 1h.59.56:12 ahead of Rouwendaal’s 1h.59.57:24. The Spaniard also qualified for worlds in the 5-kilometer event, as she was the first Spanish swimmer to complete the event and eighth overall.
Rio 2016 Olympian María Vilas made a comeback to high-level competitive swimming since the Rio 2016 Games. Vilas placed ninth in the 10-kilometer, punching her ticket to Gwangju. In that same event, María de Valdés had to drop out due to muscular difficulties. However, De Valdés placed ninth in the 5-kilometer right behind Paula Ruiz, also qualifying for Gwangju.
When it comes to the men, Spaniard Alberto Martínez came in in third place in the 10-kilometer, earning him both the bronze medal at the meet and earning him the ticket to Gwangju. Martínez finished in a time of 1h.54.38:09, behind France’s David Aubry and Athanasios Kynigakis of Greece. Martinez has also been selected to swim the 25-kilometer event at worlds.
Guillem Pujol came in tenth for the 10-kilometer race. Pujol also placed ninth in the 5-kilometer and therefore will race in both at Gwangju. In the 5-kilometer race, Raúl Santiago finished in sixth place and came in before Pujol, which allowed him to automatically qualify for worlds in the event.
The selected athletes are currently training at the High-Performance Center located in Sierra Nevada, Spain, and will be there until June 29 in order to train for Gwangju.