Germany's Wellbrock romps to win in men's marathon swimming

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TOKYO (AP) — Florian Wellbrock of Germany added a gold medal in marathon swimming to his bronze at the pool, romping to a dominant win in the men’s 10-kilometer race at Tokyo Bay on Thursday.

Wellbrock sprinted out to an early lead, was up front most of the way and won by the biggest margin in Olympic marathon swimming history on another sweltering morning in Japan's capital.

“Florian was unbeatable today,” said Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary, who finished more than 25 seconds behind for the silver. “I tried to be the best of the rest.”

Even with the race starting at 6:30 a.m., the temperature was already 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27.2 Celsius) with 80% humidity, making it feel like close to 90 degrees. Unlike the women's race the previous day, there were no clouds to mitigate the heat.

The stifling conditions apparently got to David Aubry of France, who dropped out of the race with about 3 kilometers remaining and was carried off the deck on a stretcher. There was no immediate word on his condition.

“It was really hot,” Rasovszky said. “I tried to drink my refresher every lap and I managed to do it.”

Hector Pardoe of Britain also failed to finish after being elbowed in the right eye. His goggles were knocked off, and he emerged from the water with a nasty gash and a swollen eye.

“My goggles were completely snapped off and I couldn’t see a thing,” Pardoe said. “I didn’t realize how bad it was. It was all blurry in my eye.”

The 23-year-old Wellbrock pulled away on the final lap to win by 25.3 seconds, finishing in 1 hour, 48 minutes, 33.7 seconds. It was by far the largest margin of victory in the history of Olympic marathon swimming, which was added to the program at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Wellbrock also won a bronze in the 1,500-meter freestyle on the last day of swimming at the pool.

Rasovsky finished in 1:48.59.0, while Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy picked up the bronze in 1:49.01.1. Paltrinieri was silver medalist in the 800 freestyle at the pool, completing a remarkable comeback from a bout with mononucleosis shortly before the games.

Defending Olympic marathon champion Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands finished seventh, while American Jordan Wilimovsky was 10th.

After making the final turn around a red buoy at the far end of the course, Wellbrock blew away the field. His coaches already were cheering and celebrating on the deck long before he entered the finishing lane.

After his dominating victory, Wellbrock climbed from the water and sprawled out on the deck, pouring water on his chest under the blazing sun. He skipped a trip through the media mixed zone, heading straight to the recovery area, but appeared to be feeling better when he returned for the medal ceremony.

It was a far cry from the 2016 race at Rio de Janeiro, where Weertman beat Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece by just 0.7 seconds in a photo finish. The top 19 in that event all finished closer to the lead than Rasovsky’s margin behind Wellbrock.

In three previous men's marathon races, the largest margin of victory was 3.4 seconds by Ous Mellouli at London in 2012.

Mellouli, competing in his sixth Olympics at age 37, finished 20th out of 24 swimmers who completed the race. He was nearly 8 minutes behind Wellbrock.


This story has been corrected to show that Florian Wellbrock is competing in his sixth, not fifth, Olympics.


Paul Newberry is an Atlanta-based national writer and sports columnist covering his 14th Olympics. Follow him on Twitter at and his work can be found at


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Paul Newberry, The Associated Press

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