German swimmer Florian Wellbrock says that while he plans to swim at this week’s European Championships in Rome after a COVID-19 infection, his coach Bernd Berkhan says that he’s unsure about how many races his protege will enter.
The 24-year old Wellbrock won two gold medals and a bronze in open water, as well as a silver in the 800 free and bronze in the 1500 free at June’s World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. He tested positive for COVID-19 after that meet, though, which resulted in time away from training. Given the short six-week turnaround between those two meets, even a week away from the pool could be detrimental to his form in the distance races.
Berndt says that his instinct is for Wellbrock to skip the 800 freestyle that comes early in the meet to give Wellbrock a few more days to prepare for the 1500.
“Florian has a healthy cardiovascular system, that’s the most important thing. But he hasn’t regained his full strength yet,” Berkhan said in a press conference.
Berkhan said that a test race on Thursday was “quite a mess.”
“It is difficult to predict the consequences of the stimuli during training and therefore you have to make a lot of adjustments. A lot of empathy and creativity is required, as well as the willingness to change something during training,”
Wellbrock is one of a number of German swimmers who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two months, which includes the roster dropping from the planned 30 athletes down to just 28 who have made it to Rome.
Marek Ulrich and open water swimmer Niklas Frach both have withdrawn from the meet, along with diver Lars Rudiger, synchronized swimmer Johanna Bleyer, and high diver Kai Kirbs, the German Federation says. Rudiger’s withdrawal is due to a finger injury. Linus Schwelder (5km) and Oliver Klemet (10km) will take Frach’s spot in the open water races.
Among others from the German team who contracted cases of COVID-19 after Budapest is the young Lukas Maertens, 2022’s breakout distance prospect and Worlds silver medalist in the 400 free. He is entered in every freestyle race from 200 meters through 1500, including a top seed in the 400 meter freestyle, but time away from the pool means it is unlikely that he will swim that full complement of races.
Maertens’ infection came a little earlier in the post-World Championship cycle, and the German Federation says that his symptoms were more mild than Wellbrock’s, so he is expected to be less-impacted by the infection. Still, Maertens tells SwimSwam that he plans to race the 200, 400, and 800 freestyles individually and the 800 free relay, but skip the 1500.
“Everything is fine and I think I am ready for Europeans,” he said.