YANA WINS FOUR, SWEDES KEEP ROLLING AT EURO SHORT COURSE
Lisbon, Portugal – Martina Moravcova went down in history in Lisbon Sunday as the last swimmer to win a European, or for that matter, any other international, swimming title of the 20th century, when she raced to a 1:56.28 victory in the 200m freestyle at the European short-course championships.
Earlier in the final session of the event, she had been unable to hold off a challenge in the 200m medley from Yana Klochkova, whose victory for Ukraine in 2:09.08, to the Slovakian’s 2:09.25, set a new championship record and took Klochkova’s tally of gold medals in Lisbon to four. She had also won the 400 and 800 m freestyle and 400m medley.
If her schedule was tough, so too was that of Lars Frolander, who raced the 50m butterfly semi-final three minutes before the 100m freestyle final, in which he finished second to Holland’s Pieter van Den Hoogenband (47.20 to 47.86), before returning later to share victory with Croatian defending champion Milos Milosevic in the fly final (23.35) within half an hour.
A new name emerged at the helm of European men’s distance freestyle, Igor Chervynskiy, of Ukraine, establishing a championship record of 14:42.05 to win the title from 30-year-old German former world champion, Jorg Hoffmann (14:45.71). The new man was European junior champion in Moscow in the summer but has improved 27 seconds since then.
Stephan Perrot, of France, also carried his fine summer form over to the winter, to defeat defending champion Adam Whitehead, of Britain, in the 200m breaststroke in a storming performance that left him just 0.03 shy of the world record, at 2:07.82, a championship record.
Beyond Klochkova and Moravcova, the news among women was more about who lost than who won. Agnes Kovacs lost for the third time in the championships, her defeat in the 100m breaststroke inflicted by Belgian’s Brigitte Becue (1:08.15 to 1:08.30). If Kovacs was frustrated, she might have sympathised with Johanna Sjoberg, of Sweden, who won the 100m butterfly in 57.73, a frustrating 0.01 shy of the European record.
The medley relays were a Swedish celebration, the men defeating Germany and Britain, while the women ended the championships on a high with a world record of 1:49.47, ahead of Germany’s 1:49.87, also inside previous record time. Sweden’s effort marked its fifth world record of the championships, Therese Alshammar having played a part in four of them.
Alshammar was the swimmer of the championships with world records of 24.09 and 52.80 in the 50m and 100m freestyle, respectively. She is one of the few swimmers who can hope to win the $60,000 prize offered by LEN, the governing body in Europe, for the swimmer who wins the same event in Lisbon, at the European long-course championships next summer, the Olympic Games and the next European short-course championships in Valencia, Spain in December 2000.
The Lisbon event was a great success for organizers of Portugal’s first major international swimming championship and provided a worthy end to the 20th century for the European swimming community.
When asked how she felt about her place in that history, Moravcova, who was ill with thyroid problems last summer, replied: “I ate too much chicken yesterday and I don’t feel very well.”