LEN OFFICE, Luxembourg, October 24. SWIMMERS Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) and Yannick Agnel (FRA), Divers Ilya Zakharov (RUS) and Tania Cagnotto (ITA), Open Water Swimmers Eva Risztov (HUN) and Thomas Lurz (GER), Water Polo Players Anni Espar (ESP) and Miho Boskovic (CRO), as well as Russian "Synchro Queen" Natalia Ishchenko for Synchronized Swimming, are the 2012 "European Aquatic Athletes of the Year". The European Swimming Federation (LEN) has elected the best in all five aquatic disciplines for the sixth time since 2007. Representatives of the 51 LEN Member Federations, Officials, and journalists from across Europe cast their votes in nine categories.
Swimming -- Double Olympic Champions Agnel and Kromowidjojo on top
With two of the four French Olympic Gold medals Yannick Agnel accounts for a big part of the French Swimming Federation's most successful Olympic Games ever. His title of "LEN's Male Swimmer of the Year" is well deserved. Only four weeks ahead of the Short Course European Championships on home soil in Chartres this award is the icing on the cake of a truly extraordinary year for him. The young and likeable Frenchman succeeds last year's winner, Alexander Dale Oen, who so unexpectedly and tragically passed away earlier this year. Agnel, who won the 200m freestyle in London, was also a part of the gold-medal-winning French 4x100m freestyle relay team, who exacted "revenge" after 2008 when the French quartet was defeated by the USA with a winning margin of only eight hundredths of a second. In second place in the votes ranking, and not too far behind Agnel, is Daniel Gyurta. The Hungarian, already a surprising silver medalist in Athens 2004 at fifteen years of age, not only won the Olympic title in the 200m breaststroke but set a new World Record in 2:07.28 min (recently bettered by Akihiro Yamaguchi of Japan with 2:07.01 min). In third place: Florent Manaudou, the surprising 50m freestyle Olympic Champion.
"Freestyle Queen" Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands followed in the footsteps of Italian Federica Pellegrini as "LEN's Female Swimmer of the Year" after winning two Olympic Gold medals in the 50 and 100m freestyle, just as Germany's Britta Steffen did in 2008. Second place in the votes ranking went to Camille Muffat of France, Olympic Champion in the 400m freestyle. "Newcomer" Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania took third place. The 15-year-old delivered one of the major surprises in London when she won the 100m breaststroke, setting a new European Record in the semifinals (1:05.21) and winning Lithuania's first ever Olympic swimming gold medal.
Diving - Zakharov for the first time - Third LEN Award for Cagnotto
In London Ilya Zakharov achieved gold in the 3m Springboard event, thus surprising the Chinese top stars Kai Qin and World Champion Chong He. This gold and a silver medal with his Russian compatriot Evgeny Kuznetsov in the 3m Synchronized event have made him "LEN's Male Diver of the Year" for the first time. Zakharov won this title clearly ahead of Tom Daley of Great Britain, who earned an Olympic bronze medal from the 10m platform, and his compatriot Kuznetsov. All three had achieved one European title each at the continental Championships in Eindhoven in May.
This is the third LEN Award for Italian Tania Cagnotto after her titles in 2009 and 2011. The two-time European medalist (gold 3m synchro, silver 1m) of 2012 narrowly missed the Olympic podium when she finished fourth in the 3m. Second place in the votes ranking went to another long-time "diving star": Anna Lindberg of Sweden, who earned two European titles (1m, 3m) in Eindhoven.
Synchronised Swimming - Unbeatable Russians - Fourth title to Natalia Ishchenko
As far as Synchronised Swimming is concerned, the Russians still seem unbeatable: after 2009, 2010, and 2011 (duet), Natalia Ishchenko again takes the title for the fourth consecutive time with nearly 80 percent of the votes in her favour. In the Kingdom of Queen Elizabeth the "Russian Synchro Queen" added another two Olympic Gold medals in the duet (together with partner Svetlana Romashina who was second in the ranking) and in the team event to her victory tally. In May, Ishchenko already earned two European titles (Solo, Duet) in Eindhoven.
Open Water Swimming: Olympic Champion Eva Risztov on top - Lurz for the fourth time
Hungarian Eva Risztov was the surprising winner of the 2012 Olympic 10km in London. This is why she deserves the title of "LEN's Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year". The 27-year-old, who won two medals at the European Long Course Swimming Championships on home 'turf' in Debrecen in May, took the title with a clear margin ahead of this year's Italian European Champions, Martina Grimaldi (10km) and Rachele Bruni (5km).
Olympic silver medalist Thomas Lurz was elected the best "European Male Open Water Swimmer of the Year" for the fourth time. The German, who earned this title in 2007, 2009, and 2011, clearly dominated the rankings ahead of two-time European Champion Kirill Abrosimov. The young Russian was one of the big surprises at the 2012 European Open Water Swimming Championships when he won the 5km as well as the 10km event. With bronze in the team event "Mr Open Water" Thomas Lurz also celebrated his 27th international medal at Olympics, World, and European Championships in his career in Piombino in September. Greece's 2011 World Champion Spyridon Gianniotis, who was fourth in London, took third place in the votes ranking.
Water Polo: Olympic Champions from Croatia on top - Olympic silver medallist Anni Espar of Spain ahead of European Champion Tania di Mario
The vote in the Men's Water Polo mirrored the results of the Olympics and this year's World League with Croatian forward Miho Boskovic first and goalkeeper Josip Pavic in second place. Both were not only members of the team who took the first Olympic Water Polo gold for Croatia (second Olympic medal after silver in 1996) but also won the World League Tournament in Almaty/Kazakhstan in June. Boskovic, 2007 World and 2010 European Champion, already earned the title of "LEN's Male Water Polo Player of the Year" in 2007.
The women's award went to 2012 Olympic silver medalist Anni Espar, who earned the second international medal ever with the Spanish women's Water Polo team at Olympics, World and European Championships. Silver on home soil at the European Championships in Malaga 2008 was their biggest success until the 2012 Olympics. In second place, Italian Tania di Mario. The 2004 Olympic Champion celebrated her international comeback with the 2012 European title with the "Setterosa" in Eindhoven in January and was also the best European scorer at the Olympics.
For a full statistical breakdown of the voting for the LEN Aquatic Athletes of the Year CLICK HERE
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