Greg Eggert, FINA Media Committee Honorary Secretary

Germany's mixed relay team anchored by 24-year-old veteran Rob Muffels defeated the teams of Italy and the United States in the final sprint of the 5km race. The Germans finished in 53:58.7, .2 of a second ahead of the Italians and .3 of a second faster than the USA team. The Germans were disadvantaged by a yellow card issued to Lea Boy in the lead off leg. A second yellow card would result in disqualification from the event and each of the German swimmers needed to be extremely careful of their tactics in today's event. Each of the four swimmers on the relay swim 1.25km and since it's a mixed relay they must be two men and two women. It's left to the strategy of the team to determine which swimmers race 1st, 2nd, 3rd or in the final or anchor legs.

Muffels was a member of the German team that won this event in Kazan four years ago, winning his first gold medal at the Russian world championships. Muffels also finished second in the men's 10km in Kazan.

The German team won their fourth open water world championship medal in the first four days of racing. It was a second medal for the Muffels this week, following his bronze medal and Olympic qualification in the 10km on July 16th. Since the inception of this event in 2011, the Germans have won it on three occasions, Barcelona in 2013, in Kazan in 2015, and in Budapest in 2017 and earned a bronze medal in the 2011 inaugural event.

Photo by gettyimages

Leading off with two females, Lea Boyle and Sarah Koehler, the German relay was in eighth place (of a total of 21 teams ) at the midpoint of the race, more than 36 seconds behind the USA. Soeren Meissner brought his team into the lead after swimming the third leg and it was left to Muffels to stay ahead of the Olympic champion in the 1500m freestyle, Gregorio Paltrineri. Muffels open water swimming experience would be put to the test against the Italian distance age who holds two consecutive world championship titles in the 1500m, from 2015 and 2017.

At the midpoint of the race, the American team was 10.2 seconds back from then leader China when Michael Brinegar took off. Brinegar, the USA's anchor was responsible for the final 1.25km of the relay and he got the US team back into the race. Germany, Italy and the USA were in a sprint to be the first to the touchpad at the Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park. At the end of the race, just three-tenths of a second separated the top-three teams. The next closest team was Brazil, more than 25 seconds behind the medallists.

In the history of the Mixed 5km relay, the USA won the first edition in 2011. Thirty-year-old Ashley Twichell who was the third swimmer in today's bronze medal winning team was the lead off swimmer for the American relay that won the gold medal eight years ago.  

Ashley Twichell (USA) - Photo by gettyimages

In 2017, the Italian relay team earned the bronze medal on Lake Balaton in this event. The same two women, Rachele Bruni led off and Giulia Gabbrielleschi swam second in the 2017 bronze medal campaign and in today's silver medal effort.  


Germany, gold:

Lea Boy: “The race and the results were amazing and i am speechless, except say that I am happy, and that this was my most important race.”   

Sarah Koeher: “It was my first race in open water swimming at the world championships. I enjoyed swimming this relay and I am looking forward to swimming in the pool.” 

Soeren Meissner: “It was a really nice race and I can't be more pleased with the race. It was a really good world championships for Germany and we hope this can continue for me in the 25km events tomorrow.”

Rob Muffels: “All of us are really happy taking down the win today. I think each of us did a really good job, it was a perfect strategy. The conditions were quite good with some little waves, and they were not too big or challenging. We started with our two girls swimming the first two legs and then our boys had to make their way to the front. Many years ago, I first saw Gregorio (Paltrinieri) swim when we were both at the Sette Colli meet in Rome. I was a junior athlete and I noticed that we were the same age, but he was so fast in his 1500m freestyle. After seeing him swim I said to myself that I am going to be an open water swimmer and not try to chase him in the pool. Today he was chasing me in open water.” 

“For me, I think it was a great programme this week. I earned a second world championship medal in this event and I earned a bronze medal in the 10km. It was fantastic for my teammate to win the 10km but the best part of the week was that Florian (Wellbrock) and I both qualified for the Olympics. We look forward to this streak of good swimming continuing with our pool swimmers.”

Italy, silver:   

Gregorio Paltrinieri: “I felt good, it was a great experience for me. I am really happy with the silver medal. I really felt the waves and they were a new situation for me. Rob has great open water swimming experience and he was used to the waves and swimming close beside another swimmer. I know he was trying to stay up with me and then he passed me just like that. I wanted to win, they made this medal possible. We love each other, it was fun today and they (teammates) are my family. I have a message for Rachele (Bruni): ‘We need you on this relay again in 2021. Promise you will be back on this relay and we both can help Italy win the gold.” 

United States, bronze:

Ashley Twichell: “I went off with a little bit of a lead, but I knew there were three guys – the Chinese, Germans and Italians – that were coming up on me. I just had to stay strong in the beginning, and when the Chinese guy came up with me, just tried to get into his pocket and felt like I did a really good job drafting off those three for as long as I could. Overall, it’s really fun to do relays and represent Team USA. To be honest, distance swimmers don't get to swim relays all that often. Relays are for sprinters, but we put together a really good result. I love this relay, it’s a sprint for us, so it was really fun watching Michael (Brinegar) bring it home so well.”