By Sharon Robb
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, December 15, 2021–Italy won the inaugural open water mixed team relay Wednesday at the 15th FINA Short Course World Championships at Yas Bay.
It was the first time the new open water event was held at the championships.
Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy led his relay team in the 6K event. His split of 15:49.1 was the fastest of the nine teams that competed. He was 3.2 seconds faster than Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky, who challenged him in the final lap.
“It was a tough race,” Paltrinieri said. “Since Tokyo, I have been focusing on pool training, mostly on the 1500 meters. Today was a race in the sea, but it was also a 1500-meter race so I decided to swim the relay.
“Relays are always fun. I won’t be swimming the 10K Thursday. I battled with Kristof for the last 200 meters and he was trying to stay close to me. After the last buoy I gave it everything I had and he wasn’t able to pass me.”
Hungary was second in 1:06.51 and Germany was third in 1:07.29. The Italian team will split $20,000 in prize money. Hungary earned $16,000 and Germany $12,000.
Martina De Memme led off the Italian relay in 17:23.8 and was the sixth fastest lead-off swimmer in the event. De Memme was also the oldest swimmer on the Italian relay at age 30. Giulia Gabrielleschi, 25, the youngest Italian swam the second leg in 17:24.60 and was fifth fastest swimmer in the second leg. Domenico Acerena swam the third leg in a time of 16:10.6, second-fastest third leg swimmer.
Longtime St. Andrew’s Aquatics director and coach Sid Cassidy of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee directed the open water event.
The five-day meet continues Thursday with the pool competition and ends Tuesday, Dec. 21.
SOFLO and Florida Gold Coast will be well-represented. SOFLO Olympians Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Julio Horrego of Honduras will represent their countries. Both will compete Thursday. Atkinson, the world record holder in the 50-meter breaststroke, is seeded second in 28.88. Horrego will compete in the 100-meter breaststroke. His entry time is 1:01.18, seeded 37th.
Other FGC swimmers competing are:
Steven Aimable, Senegal, Azura.
Julimar Avila, Honduras, Azura.
Nicole Frank, Uruguay, Azura.
Yeziel Morales, Puerto Rico, Azura.
Maria Fe Munoz, Peru, Azura.
Kerry Ollivierre, Grenada, Azura.
Joaquin Vargas, Peru, Azura.
Sidrell Williams, Jamaica, Azura.
Dylan Carter, Trinidad and Tobago, American Heritage Plantation alum.
Izaak Bastian, Bahamas, Florida State, St. Andrew’s alum.
Miguel Cancel, Puerto Rico, University of Florida, Gulliver Prep alum.
FINA will offer a prize money pool of $2.8 million, a 50 percent increase in prize money for individual swimmers. There will also be a $50,000 bonus for any swimmer who breaks a world record.
The top eight individual payoffs for first through eighth place are $10,000, $8,000, $7,000, $6,000, $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000.
There are 943 swimmers from 183 countries competing. The swimming is part of the Aquatics Festival which includes open water swimming, high diving and diving team competition.
Final sessions of the pool swimming will be streamed on NBC Sports’ Olympic Channel. Eurovision Sport’s All Aquatics will air the heats.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com