European Championships: Leonie Beck Clinches Open Water Double, David Betlehem Wins Maiden Senior Title

Leonie Beck: Photo courtesy: European Aquatics

European Championships: Leonie Beck Clinches Open Water Double, David Betlehem Wins Maiden Senior Title

Leonie Beck completed the open water double with victory in the 5k and David Betlehem clinched his maiden senior title at the European Aquatics Championships in Belgrade.

Beck moved from second at the halfway stage of the second of three laps to touch in 58:25.3 while Betlehem out-touched Marc-Antoine Olivier in a sprint finish.

With that, the German completed the 5/10k double after she out-touched Barbara Pozzobon by 0.1secs in the longer race on Wednesday.

Ginevra Taddeuci claimed her third European medal with silver in 58.26.5 while Bettina Fabian came from fifth to land third in 58:28.7, the pair overhauling Rome 2022 silver medallist and long-time leader Maria de Valdes who finished fourth in 58:29.0.

Beck will travel to Paris as one of the Olympic title contenders where the likes of Ana Cunha and Sharon van Rouwendaal, gold and silver medallists in Tokyo, await in the River Seine.

Beck said:

“I was dead from yesterday’s race (10km) so I just tried to hold on and keep a good position until the finish.

“I managed to achieve that, I could stay in front, so I didn’t have to push that hard to catch up the leaders and did a great finish. I’m really happy with my second gold medal.”

Betlehem came third in the 10k on Wednesday to claim his first individual medal at a major senior international event following three trips to the world podium with the team relay.

The 2022 double world junior champion returned on Thursday to Ada Ciganlija where a new champion would be crowned in the absence of Gregorio Paltrinieri who delivered a masterclass en-route to 10k gold.

Kristof Rasovszky, who won the 2019 world 5k title, stormed to the front from the start and set a fast pace which few could match.

The Hungarian led the pack for two laps, closely followed by Marc-Antoine Olivier, Sascha Velly and Betlehem.

Turning onto the last lap, Olivier switched gears and swam to the front, alongside Betlehem, while Rasovszky battled with Velly.

With the last two turns in sight, the battle between Olivier and Betlehem intensified with the pair swimming shoulder-to-shoulder but unable to make the decisive move and leave the other behind.

Though Olivier took the better position at the buoys, remaining on the inside, Betlehem got back on equal terms as they approached the final straight.

l-r: Marc-Antoine Olivier, David Betlehem, Marcelo Guidi: Photo courtesy: European Aquatics

The pair geared up for the last 200m to stage a two-horse race, which came down to the touch as Betlehem managed to shoot his arm up and in front and deliver a perfectly-timed and executed touch.

It gave him the necessary edge to grab the gold in 53:28.3, 0.4 ahead of Olivier who finished in 53:28.7.

Marcelo Guidi came through the field to finish third in 53:30.8 ahead of Velly, while Rasovszky had to settle for sixth as Greece’s Athanasios Kynigakis also passed him.

Betlehem said:

“It was a really long road and I had to learn a lot of lessons before I could achieve this, two medals in two days, with a European title, not that bad, is it?

“Today it was a huge race, my big bro Raso (Kristof Rasovszky) set a great pace over the first two laps, not everyone was happy with that as he managed to tear the field apart and only the best ones could stay close.

“In the last, we got going with Marc (Marc-Antoine Olivier) and it came down between the two of us.

“I knew I could have a chance, I just had to find a clear path. Even if I was on the outside so needed to swim a bit more, I was confident that I had the speed to touch in first.

“I was close but I could make it finally and this is a fantastic feeling and a tremendous boost before the Olympics.”

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