Open Water, Day 1: Olympic champion Mellouli (TUN) is the best in the 5km

BCN2013 - Open Water

Oussama Mellouli (TUN) - credit: Andrea Staccioli/InsidefotoThe Olympic 10km champion Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia won his first FINA World Championship title in the 5km using his trademark "jets" to sprint to the touch-pad in the final 100 metres of the race. Mellouli unseated Thomas Lurz of Germany who has dominated the 5km event since his first title in 2005's Montreal World Championships.

Mellouli had planned to take a year off after the Olympics. "I didn't expect to win the 5km. I am really happy with the results. I did take six months off and got back into training not too long ago. To be on top of the world is quite exciting for me."

The Tunisian won his first medal in Barcelona at the World Championships 10 years ago. He is the only athlete to have won a medal in both the Olympic pool and in open water events. Mellouli was the gold medallist in the 1500m freestyle at the 2008 Olympics, the bronze medallist in the 1500m freestyle at the 2012 Olympics, and the gold medallist in the 10km marathon swim at the 2012 Olympics.

Lurz is the only athlete to have medalled twice in Olympic open water competition. Lurz is the only person to have won a medal in each Olympic open water event. The German swimmer earned a bronze medal in the Beijing Olympic Games and was second to Mellouli in the London Olympics. Lurz owned seven consecutive titles in the 5km distance in World Championships events.

Mellouli, 28, won in a time of 53:30.4, beating 20-year-old Canadian Eric Hedlin by 1.2 seconds. Thirty-three year old Lurz was 1.8 seconds behind the new 5km champion.


Gold medal winner: Oussama Mellouli (TUN)

"I felt great, it was a great day for me. It was totally unexpected, it was my first world title in open water swimming so I am really excited about that. I felt really good out there."

"Ten years ago (in the first Barcelona World championships) I placed third in the 400m Individual Medley behind Michael Phelps (Gold Medal) and Laszlo Cseh (HUN). I'm happy to be back in this beautiful city and to be back on the podium."

"I'm 28 years old and have been swimming for 10 years and I went to four different Olympics. I felt mentally that I was saturated and I was prepared to walk away with my gold medal and be happy for the rest of my life. But after talking to my friends and family I realised that I wanted to do more in this sport."

"I took my time after the Olympics, I was out of the water for six or seven months, I had fun, I did whatever I wanted and I gained some weight. I realised that I missed my training so we got back in the pool to see what we could do in Barcelona. I trained two weeks at altitude with Bob Bowman in Colorado, I went back home and felt pretty good, I kept on training and went back to altitude in France."

Oussama Mellouli (TUN) at the finish - credit: Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto
Oussama Mellouli (TUN) at the finish - credit: Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto

"In late June I swam in the Mediterranean Games and I swam surprisingly fast for putting in only five weeks of honest work. It has been a special year and I am happy that I didn't quit."

"I'd like to go to Rio (for the 2016 Olympics). In December my mom and I went to Rio. I loved Copacabana beach and we saw the venue of the open water. I look forward to building our training plan and trying to stay excited about training."

"I've been feeling good in the pool doing some good stuff in training, obviously I am not 100% and the big question is: will I be able to recover and be able to switch gears for the pool? Last year it was the reverse with the pool events coming before the open water 10km."

"I have two big open water races back to back, the 10km is in 72 hours and we will see how my body will recover and then we will take the pool events one day at a time. I am entered in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle events."