BERLIN, Germany, May 28. EARLIER this week, to mark 12 weeks until the start of the pool swimming portion of the European Aquatics Championships, the European aquatic federation announced that 43 nations are set to compete in the seven-day event.
Courtesy of: Joan Marc Bosch
Courtesy of: Joan Marc Bosch
Of course, not all countries will win medals, but we can expect double digit-accumulations from the "Big Five" at the meet: France, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Russia. At the 2010 edition, which was the last fully-attended long course championship, each of those countries with the exception of Germany earned 10 or more medals.
Sweden was also part of the top medal winners in 2010, but are not expected to make as big of a showing this summer. Though many countries have not officially released the names of their athletes who will participate in Berlin, we can begin to speculate which countries will lead the medal rankings. Here's a quick peek at our pick of the top three, in alphabetical order.
Never bet against the host country to have a great meet. Germany's squad looks to be its strongest ever, both for the men and women. Led on the men's side by Steffen Diebler, Paul Biedermann and Marco Koch, those three could be crucial on relay duty as well. The women will suffer greatly with its first international outing minus Britta Steffen since 2006, but Dorothea Brandt will help pick up the slack with entries in three individual events. Jenny Mensing could find herself in the mix in backstroke events.
Katinka Hosszu could be a top-five country on her own, based on the number of events she's likely to swim in Berlin. The Iron Lady is the heavy favorite in the individual medleys and the 200 fly, but could be a medal contender in the backstrokes based on her quick rise in the global standings this year, as well as the 200 free. Evelyn Verraszto has been swimming in Hosszu's shadow but could earn a medal or two if she hits her taper. The men are just as impressive. Evelyn's older brother, David, might be a factor in the individual medleys, but he won't be able to surpass countryman Laszlo Cseh. And then there's Daniel Gyurta. He's likely on a quest to regain the world record in the 200 breast and might have a race with Koch and Great Britain's Michael Jamieson.
Even with Yuliya Efimova out of the meet as she serves a 16-month doping suspension, and Arkady Vyatchanin splitting from his homeland, Russia will be a strong force. Veronika Popova could find herself on the medal stand in the 100 and 200 freestyles, while Daria Ustinova might sneak into contention in the backstrokes at her first major senior international meet. The men are heavy with sprint freestylers, which will help relays. Vlad Morozov leads the way, with a strong corps behind him for dominance in the 400 free relay. Evgeny Korotyshkin might be able to return to form for a top-three finish in the 100 fly and give the medley relay a boost.
Great Britain could have a good group of athletes at the meet, but they will be about three weeks from competing in the Commonwealth Games, their most important meet of the year. Jamieson in the 200 breast and Hannah Miley in the IMs are strong medal hopes, as is Ross Murdoch in the shorter breaststroke races. But if some of the best Brits stay home, Team GB might not feature very high on the medal list.
France is always a strong country at the European championships, but appears to have lost some of its luster since the 2012 Olympics. Yannick Agnel, Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius are still swimming well, but the rest of the men's team doesn't seem to have the potential to win medals. Camille Muffat struggled last year, but this would be a good year to work back to form on the way to the 2016 Olympics.
Denmark's women's team is on a roll, with Rikke Moller Pedersen, Jeanette Ottesen Gray and Lotte Friis expected to take home multiple medals. But without a strong men's team, the medal count might be low. The same goes for the Netherlands, which will lean heavily on the sprint squad headed by double Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo.