Setubal (Portugal) – Mixing and matching their usual customary running order, Italy 1 anchor Mario Sanzullo just held off a hard-charging Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy 2 by two seconds to win in 1:12:27.

Kristof Rasovszky matched his bronze medal performance from Saturday’s 10km Individual to bring Hungary home in third, finishing in 1:13:21.

Racing in front of a supportive partisan crowd, Portugal was in silver medal position heading into third of four legs before slightly fading to finish fourth in 1:15:14. Brazil rounded out Sunday’s field, finishing fifth in 1:18:53.

6km Mixed Team Relay Race Format

An innovative race format that made its international debut at last December’s Marathon Swim World Series Grand Finale in Abu Dhabi (UAE), the 6km Mixed Team Relay consists of two male and two female athletes each racing 1500m. Countries are free to choose their running order, with all teams in Setubal deciding to start the two opening legs with female competitors before tagging off to their male teammates for the final two loops around the course.

Racing in the open ocean, the conditions called for increasing winds and stronger currents as the tide ebbed, which teams said factored in using the male swimmers in the choppier waters. The weather report held true, with a steady sea breeze turning brisker as the competition went along. The current stiffened as well on the second half of the course as the ocean moved towards low tide.

With the water temperature registering below 18 degrees Celsius, wetsuit racing was again mandatory.  

How the Race Played Out

Led off by starter Giulia Gabbrielleschi, Italy 1 opened a 21-second gap over Italy 2’s Martina De Memme before handing off to teammate Ginevra Taddeucci.

While Taddeucci kept the lead, Portugal eighteen-year-old Mafalda Rosa swam an inspired second leg to bring the home side into second, handing off just before Hungary’s Anna Olasz at the midway mark of the race.

On the third leg, the final order came into focus, with Marcello Guidi adding an additional 17 seconds to the 35-second advantage Italy 1 had heading into the anchor leg as Hungary lurked just a little further back in third.  

It’s never a good idea to count Paltrinieri out from a race. And what a race the Olympic and FINA World Champion made of it in Setubal. After not making up much ground to Italy 1 anchor Sanzullo on the first half of the course, Paltrinieri clawed back over 30 seconds heading back home, swimming against the current.

Undaunted, Sanzullo never let Paltrinieri quite draw level to earn the Italy 1 quartet a close victory in the first of four 6km Mixed Team Relays on the open water World Series 2022 calendar.  

“I’m very excited to win the relay. It was very, very hard and Gregorio nearly caught me, but I was able to touch the finish line first,” a beaming Sanzulla said after the race. “This type of racing is really fun. It’s tough coming back racing after yesterday’s 10km, but I did it for the team. I had to dig hard and push, but we were able to do it.”

Paltrinieri struck the pose of a satisfied competitor at the finish line.

“The relay is the best race ever,” Paltrinieri said. “It’s the type of race where you can have a lot of fun. I closed the gap a lot, but in the end, I was really tired and couldn’t do anything more.

I like this type of competition. It’s super fun. It’s cool,” Paltrinieri added. “Even if we had the 10km yesterday, it’s just 1500m so you just go for it. I like it so much.”

The Hungarian bronze-medal-winning quartet of Reka Rohacs, Anna Olasz, David Betlehem and Kristof Rasovszky also expressed interest in racing more Mixed Team Relays.

“We’re super excited to be here in Setubal to do the relay and not just the 10km. I think it’s super cool for every open water swimmer to swim in a relay as our sport is often very much an individual sport and we don’t often get the chance to swim as a team,” Olasz said after the podium presentation. “I'm really happy that the relay is in the World Series.”

Added Hungarian anchor Rasovszky: “It’s always tough catching up to the Italians, they’re all really fast. We’re happy with the third place and hopefully, at the world champs you’ll also see us on the podium again.”

Results and Rankings

  • Mixed Team Relay

What’s to Come, Part I: Open Water Racing at the FINA World Championships

All eyes and attention in the aquatics world now has its full focus on the 19th FINA World Championships that come in 20 days’ time. The open water events in Budapest run from 26-30 June, just after the swimming action from the 50m pool at the Duna Arena concludes.

On Jun 26th, the open water events in Budapest commence with the 6km Mixed Team Relay, followed by the men’s and women’s 5km Individual on the 27th. After a rest day on the 28th, the men’s and women’s 10km Individual is contested on the 29th. The open water events of the world championships conclude on June 30th with the men’s and women’s 25km Individual.

What’s to Come, Part II: Marathon Swim World Series returns to Paris

The FINA Marathon Swim World Series picks up the week after the world championships wrap up in the Hungarian capital with Paris, France hosting leg two. While not quite a preview of the Paris 2024 as the Olympic Games will see the open water events contested on the River Seine in the immediate shadow of the Eiffel Tower, this year’s World Series stop will not be any less impressive.

Events will take place in Parc de la Villette, the largest urban cultural park in the capital. The Canal de l’Ourc crosses through the park, making this an ideal spot to host this competition.  The men’s and women’s 10km Individual will take place on Friday, July 9th, followed by the 6km Mixed Team Relay on Saturday.