GLASGOW (Reuters) – Ferry Weertman was hailed as the “king of the open water” after once again delivering one of his celebrated last-gasp shows in Loch Lomond to deliver gold for the Netherlands in the 5km mixed team event at the European Championships.
Olympic champion Weertman, a fractional winner of the 10km title, went stroke for stroke with Germany’s Florian Wellbrock, the 1,500m winner in the swimming programme, on a thrilling last 1.25km leg.
The German may be the quicker swimmer but found the rough and tumble of open water combat in a chilly loch very different to the civilised world of the indoor pool as Weertman, too strong and streetwise, beat him to the finish board touch by 0.6 seconds.
“It was really hard, I tried to push the speed. I know he’s Olympic champion, world champion, king of the open water,” sighed Wellbrock. “I tried to beat him but it didn’t work.
“I was the fastest man in the pool this year but for the open water it’s not the same. They are completely different.”
He found that out the hard way as Weertman, partnered by Esmee Vermeulen, Sharon van Rouwendaal, who collected her third gold of the week, and Pepijn Smits, evidently enjoyed handing out his open water lesson.
“Florian is an amazing swimmer and I know when he has the space to himself, in the pool he is the fastest. Luckily, in the open water there is different rules and I could get close to him and annoy him a little bit. That’s my habitat,” Weertman said.
“I have more experience than him. I’m good at a one-on-one fight.”
It allowed the Dutch quartet to live up to the “A Team” nickname they gave themselves in the build-up to the Championships, when they offered the same pose as the characters from the TV series for an Instagram post.
“It was a joke and something to bond over, it made us become a team a little bit more. We all had our own specialities and together we are the best,” Weertman said.
He goes for his third title in the 25km event on Sunday while a weary Van Rouwendaal is still pondering whether to shoot for gold number four in the women’s event.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)