Florian Wellbrock was not in top form at the European Swimming Championships in Rome
Photo: Jokleindl / dpa
Top swimmer Florian Wellbrock missed an EM medal on his special route after his corona infection.
In the 1500 meter freestyle race, the 24-year-old finished in 15:02.51 minutes and finished fifth.
The Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk was crowned European champion in 14:36.10 minutes.
Italian world champion Gregorio Paltrinieri took silver, bronze went to Damien Joly from France.
In front of Wellbrock, breast swimmer Lucas Matzerath won bronze in the 50-meter race on Tuesday and celebrated it exuberantly.
"Insane," said Matzerath enthusiastically.
»The atmosphere is just great!«
While the 22-year-old won his first medal at a major international championship, Wellbrock is very familiar with award ceremonies.
After five medals in five starts at the World Championships in June, he was denied his sixth medal at a major event this summer.
"After 250 meters I noticed that I couldn't keep up with the guys in front."
»After 250 meters I noticed that I couldn't keep up with the guys in front.
But I was still hoping for bronze.
We knew what we were getting ourselves into.
It's manageable after the successful World Cup with five medals," said Wellbrock.
He usually goes into the longest pool race as one of the top favourites.
This time it was different.
After the World Championships in Budapest, where he won five medals in five starts, the man from Magdeburg, like many athletes, fell ill with Covid-19 and was unable to train for a long time.
Wellbrock did not travel to the European Championship in top form.
The performance of the open water Olympic champion fluctuated.
While his teammates Lukas Märtens and Isabel Gose won medals, Wellbrock decided not to compete in the 800 meter freestyle.
Instead of being celebrated by the enthusiastic fans at the outdoor pool in the Foro Italio, he trained and took in the atmosphere on the first days of the European Championship as a spectator.
Wellbrock only started on Monday and thus on the fifth day of the competition.
He qualified for the final in 15:06.18 minutes as the fifth fastest of the heats.
He then found it difficult to assess his chances of winning a medal.
He didn't want to be put under pressure.
"I showed what I can do at the World Championships," said Wellbrock.
"That's why I don't need to get too carried away here."
At the World Cup and 2021 at the Olympic Games he had won bronze over 1500 meters.
After Matzerath's third place, the German team is down to five European Championship medals before the final day of pool competitions.
Wellbrock did not want to commit to possible starts in the open water competitions: "We will decide that tonight," said the Olympic champion on Tuesday evening.
If he does not rule out participation directly, one will “wait and see for a day or two”.