Powerful Germany wins 5km team event

Kazan 2015 - OW

A powerful German squad took the gold medal in the Open Water Mixed 5km Team event on the picturesque and placid Kazanka River today finishing in a time of 55:14.4, a little more than 16 seconds ahead of two rival teams that would share the silver medal. The team of Christian Reichert, Rob Muffels and Isabelle Harle captured the 24th gold medal for Germany. Reichert (55:10.9) and Harle (55:14.4) were members of the gold medalling winning team from the 2013 Barcelona World Championships that included the recently retired Thomas Lurz, the most decorated open water swimmer in history.

In the Mixed 5km Team Event each squad leaves 30 seconds apart and their final time is determined when the third swimmer hits the touchpad. Many different strategies are at work between the teammates. In some instances one of the male swimmers serves as the "engine" allowing the female swimmer to draft off the pace setter. The men switch their positions allowing for a fresh swimmer to serve as the "engine". In other cases one of the male swimmers will take the lead and also be in change of the pace and navigation.

The reason each team is separated by only 30 seconds is to ensure that each team is facing the same water and air conditions on the course. It is not uncommon for stronger teams to pass a few others squads in the race, but it is the time of the third swimmer that triggers the race result for each team. Race conditions at the start were bright and sunny with 25 degree air temperature, but it was gloomy and raining at the finish. The water temperature taken before the race indicated a comfortable 23 degrees.

The joy of the German swimmers - Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

The efficient German squad passed the halfway mark at 28:11 about 20 seconds faster than the Hungarian trio. At the midpoint of the race the Dutch team was in third position followed by Brazilians and the Australians. Hungary fell off their pace to finish in 7th place, the Australians were 6th. Stronger second half performances were registered by Italy and the USA who finished in 4th and 5th place respectively. 

Germany's Harle finished 7th in the women's 10km to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Marathon in Rio. Teammate Muffells covered the 5km in 55:12.1 seconds; he was actually 5.5 seconds faster that his individual 5km swum on Sunday where he earned a silver medal. Germany's Reichert finished 18th in the men's 10km and will continue to seek his path to the Olympics in next year's Olympic qualifier.

A silver medal is shared between the Netherlands and Brazil, a first occasion in open water swimming. Because of the staggered starting times of each team, the Dutch were sitting at the top of unofficial results until the Germans arrived with a faster time, moving them into second. During the flurry of swimmers finishing together the timing chip of Ana Marcela Cunha did not register her finish and the Omega timing board did not show the result of the Brazilians. It was an agonizing wait for Ana Marcela Cunha, Diogo Villarinho and Allan do Carmo until their country Brazil appeared just below Germany on the timing results screen. 

Although the Dutch may have thought they were moved down to a bronze medal, the results confirmed a tie, both teams finishing in 55:31.2 seconds.  Netherlands won its first medal in this event. Sharon van Rouwendaal (55.31.2), Ferry Weertman (55.31.2) and Marcel Schouten (55:30.8) also won the gold medal at the 2014 European Championships. Van Rouwendaal has a second silver from the 10km on Saturday and Weertman also collected a silver medal in the men's 10km on Sunday in Kazan.

The podium of the 5km Team event: Germany (gold), Netherlands and Brazil (both with silver)
Photo credit: Giorgio Scala/Deepbluemedia

It was a moral victory for Brazil's Villarinho (55.29.5), who finished 21st in the men's 10km and did not qualify for next year's home Olympic Games. Cunha (55:31.2) and do Carmo (55:31.2) both qualified for 2016 the Olympic 10km Marathon by top 10 finishes earlier in open water competition. Cunha's bronze from the team event means that she has now won a FINA medal in all four of the events on the world championship program, 5km, 10km, 25km and Mixed 5km Team. On Saturday she picked up the bronze medal in the 10km.


GOLD MEDAL - Germany

Rob Muffels:
“The race was really fast and Isabelle was pushing behind me. The USA was right next to us and it took a lot of speed to get away from them. Our hard work paid off in the end”. 

Christian Reichert:
“We won the event in 2013 and we were confident that we would have a very good race today. We were without Thomas Lurz today but Rob is a strong swimmer and we knew that Isabelle can be very fast”.

Isabelle Harle:
“The only job I had to do was to follow the men. But after the first lap it was so hard. I thought to myself that I had to stop but I was afraid the guys would kill me if I did. It was good in the end. Rob was swimming with me and did what I did. Rob's my man! Christian was leading us but if I got tired he would let me rest”.

SILVER MEDAL - Netherlands

Sharon Van Rouwendaal:
“We weren't that fast in the first 500m and we found that we really can't go that fast in the first 1.5km. We are a team that builds up our speed. It's hard for us to go out fast, but we will do it the next time so that we can win this race”. 

Ferry Weertman: “It was a very hard fought race with navigation issues but I think we did pretty well. It's always hard to know what place to swim for the girl (Sharon) but we have pretty strong girls. I think we were a bit too slow at the start but we had a great second lap. We need to work on getting out faster and finding a good pace. We will go to Brazil for the test event in August”.


Diogo Villarinho: “The race was so tough and fast. It's amazing that we tied in the final. Two days ago I lost my chance to swim at the Olympics so this race and medal is perfect. Ana swam to the maximum today. Alan provided the strategy and direction and we are so happy with this result”.

Alan do Carmo: “I don't think the weather changed the results. We were fine with the waves and the rain but we need to practice more because we have only swum together a few times together. We are friends”.

Ana Marcela Cunha:
“Allan is the only swimmer from the team in Barcelona that swam to a bronze medal two years ago. In the first half of today's race, Allan pushed the pace all of the time. Diogo took his turn in the middle before Allan led us again at the finish. In 2013 Barcelona, our team was much farther behind the German team. We really tried to stay with the Germans and in fact tied with the Dutch so we applied a successful strategy. The silver medal gives more status to our effort but it’s not an event on the Olympic programme”.