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    German swimming stars freeze bitterly in Qatar


    It's getting even colder in Paris
    German swimming stars freeze bitterly in Qatar

    First Leonie Beck, then Florian Wellbrock: The two double world champions of 2023 got off to a bad start in Doha. There is a lot of work and a lot of worry ahead of the Olympics.

    Florian Wellbrock needed a few hours to collect himself after his false start at the World Championships. “The sea is and remains unpredictable – we're going to keep going,” wrote Germany's swimming star on social media late on Sunday evening, after he got out of the water at the old port of Doha at midday, both frozen and frustrated, and left in silence.

    Shortly after the race, national coach Bernd Berkhahn was looking for an explanation for the 29th place over ten kilometers, although the Olympic open water champion himself had long since fled to warmer conditions. “We trained for the low temperature. Of course never for more than two hours, because you don't want to endanger the health of the athletes,” said the Magdeburger's coach: “He didn't really have that many problems.”

    But Wellbrock apparently had to struggle with the 19.9 degree water temperature in Qatar. Oliver Klemet, third in the 2023 World Championships, also struggled with the conditions, finishing eleventh. The day before, Leonie Beck had clearly missed the chance to defend her title in 20th place at a not much warmer 20.2 degrees.

    Bad: It's cold in Paris too

    The good news: Wellbrock and Beck had already secured their Olympic ticket in the 26-degree warm water of Fukuoka with their sensational double triumphs over five and the Olympic ten kilometers, as did Klemet with bronze. The bad news: Berkhahn expects lower temperatures in the Seine than in the port of Doha – but probably not cold enough for a warm wetsuit.

    Since a rule change two years ago, this is only allowed below 18 degrees, instead of below 20 degrees as before. “Towards Paris we have to do more with cold water, because the Seine will only be between 18 and 19 degrees,” said Berkhahn.

    Before that, however, Beck (8:30 a.m. CET) and Wellbrock and Klemet (11 a.m. CET) still have the five-kilometer races to do in Qatar on Wednesday. “It's halfway through, so maybe it won't be quite as cold,” said Beck. After the unsuccessful start, Wellbrock is also likely to have this hope, having swum to the finish line over the double distance 1:37.8 minutes behind the Hungarian winner Kristof Rasovszky.

    “A mammoth task” still lies ahead

    But even before the World Cup, they had already trained in the cooled flow channel and taken ice baths, explained Berkhahn. However, this was “relatively shortly after our training camp in Pretoria” at the beginning of the year. These things “certainly have to be done more often” in preparation for the Olympics.

    Because everything is geared towards the big highlight of the season, the World Cup, which was postponed due to the Corona pandemic, doesn't really fit in. With a view to the already secured Olympic qualification, the national coach had explained in advance that he therefore “actually doesn't need to set any priorities” for the ten kilometers in Doha.

    Nevertheless, Berkhahn saw it as a “mammoth task” on Sunday to “solve everything again”. The pool competitions are still to follow next week. Unlike in the open water, Wellbrock is still fighting for an Olympic ticket there in the 800 and 1500 meter freestyle.

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