GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — After 10 kilometers of open-water swimming in the sea, world championship organizers needed a photo finish to determine the winner of the Olympic qualifier on Tuesday.
Florian Wellbrock of Germany edged France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier by two-tenths of a second to take the gold medal. The 21-year-old Wellbrock finished in 1 hour, 47 minutes, 55.90 seconds, shading Olivier at the finish.
Another German swimmer, Rob Muffels, earned bronze in 1:47.57.40.
Wellbrook and Olivier were locked in a two-man race for the gold medal in a final 200-meter sprint to the finish line. The group in close pursuit included Muffels, who used his experience to emerge from that tight bunch to finish third.
Wellbrook was the race and pace leader for much of the event. The few times that he was not leading he was in the top three and dropped back to sixth only briefly to conserve his energy for the final sprint.
“I believe that working together with Rob and also training at altitude helped both of us,” Wellbrock said. “I admit that it’s a big and also a hard step to be on the podium next year in Tokyo, but with hard work it may be possible.”
Wellbrock said he plans to also swim in two pool events at Tokyo, including the 1,500-meter race.
Hungarian swimmer Kristof Rasovszky, who won the 5-kilometer race on Saturday, was fourth in 1:47.59.50 and American Jordan Wilimovsky, who won silver at the last world titles, was fifth in a time of 1:48.01.00.
The top 10 finishers in the race earned spots for their countries in next year’s 10-kilometer race at the Tokyo Olympics.
Defending world and Olympic champion Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands faded to seventh, six seconds behind Wellbrock, but will still have a chance to defend a title next year in Tokyo.
The open water races continue Wednesday with the women’s 5-kilometer race, followed by the 5-kilometer team relay on Thursday and the 25-kilometer races for men and women on Friday. All are non-Olympic events.