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Marathon Swimming: A Ferry for Tokyo !

Ferry Weertman, whose self-styled nickname is VeryFerryFast, qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by taking 7th place in the 10km race at the World Championships in Gwangju on 16 July 2019. The Rio 2016 Dutch Olympic champion is determined to be the first to retain the title in this discipline.

Ferry Weertman is the king of open-water marathon swimming. After a stunning finish in Copacabana Bay at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, he managed to hit the finishing line before Greece’s Spyridon Giannotis, who had overtaken him a few moments earlier in the final chute. He had to call his friends in the Netherlands in order to believe his Olympic victory was true. Since then, he has followed up on his success, becoming the 2017 world champion in the waters of Lake Balaton, Hungary, before being crowned European champion in Glasgow’s Loch Lomond in 2018. 

At the Gwangju World Championships in Korea, he failed to reach the podium in the 10km, the only Olympic distance, but his 7th place finish earned him one of 10 qualifying spots for the Tokyo 2020 Games. “I have mixed feelings,” he explained after the race. “I was aiming for a medal, of course. But I’m glad I qualified for the Games. I was feeling good, but it was hard getting my head up during the final two laps.”

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Water Levels Are Rising! 

It was Germany who demonstrated its power at the Korean World Championships, multiplying its wins on top of that by Florian Wellbrock in the 10km, who already distinguished himself as a pool swimmer by winning the 1,500 metre European Championship title in 2018.  “There are a lot of guys coming from the pool, and I think they’re increasing the speed of the races,” Weertman said, “but that doesn’t bother me.” Indeed, in Gwangju, it was Rio’s 1,500m Olympic champion, the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who set the pace for a long time before finishing in sixth place. Weertman specialised much younger.

“In 2010, I wanted to compete in the European pool championships but didn’t qualify,” he recalls. “I found my place in open water and really liked it. You have to make your own way. There’s a lot of strategy. No two races are the same. It could be hot or cold. There could be waves. There could be 50 or 80 swimmers at the start or 25, like at the Games.”

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Thirty Hours per Week 

Ferry Weertman is part of the great tradition of Dutch swimming. His inspirations include Pieter Van den Hoogenband and, above all, Maarten Van der Weijden, one of the pioneers of open water swimming, who defeated leukaemia before becoming the 10km Olympic champion in Beijing in 2008. Alongside his studies in business administration, he trains for 30 hours a week at the National Swimming Centre in Eindhoven under the supervision of Marcel Wouda.

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His energy is now entirely focused on the Tokyo 2020 Games. “I’m trying to improve my performance in the last 400 metres. I’ll break into a series of intense sprints after 8 or 9 kilometres of swimming.” Ferry’s goal is to become the first swimmer to retain his Olympic title in marathon swimming, a discipline that did not enter the Games until 2008. That way, he would inch closer to his colleague, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, a triple Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012 in the 50m, 100m and 4x10m − all much more reasonable distances.
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