Photo Credit: Joao Marc Bosch
BERLIN, Germany, August 17. ONE of the most anticipated meets of the summer, the 2014 European Championships, gets underway tomorrow in Berlin, with many of the top European swimming stars scheduled to compete. There will be plenty of great races to watch over the next week; here are five storylines to keep an eye on in the coming days!
1. Sarah Sjoestroem: A trio of world records?
Earlier this year, Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem lowered the women’s 50 fly world record to 24.43, a ridiculous time that actually ranks among the top 50 freestyle times in the world this year. She’ll compete in that event tomorrow, with a chance to lower her record even further. With so much speed in the shorter distance, many swim fans have been wondering how long it will be before she takes down the 100 fly record as well. American Dana Vollmer remains the only swimmer to clear 56 in that event, posting a 55.98 to win gold in London, but Sjoestroem presents a serious threat. Sjoestroem also has the potential to lower the women’s 100 free world record, which Britta Steffen set at 52.07. Sjoestroem has been 52.73 this year, at the Eindhoven Swim Cup in April. She could potentially leave the meet with three world records, and at least three gold medals.
2. How many medals will Katinka Hosszu win?
Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, who is best known for entering a ton of events at pretty much every meet she goes to, has continued that trend at the European Championships with a whopping 10 events on her schedule. Hosszu’s lineup includes the 400 IM (4:30.41), 200 back (2:08.93), 100 free (54.97), 200 IM (2:07.92), 100 back (59.40), 100 fly (58.91), 200 free (1:56.30), 50 back (28.52), 200 fly (2:05.59) and 400 free (4:05.51), and she could realistically end up swimming close to 30 races total this week, with prelims, semi-finals and finals. The scary thing is, she’s seeded first or in the top five in most of these events; these days it’s hard enough to train for 10 different events, let alone win a medal in all 10, but Hosszu is definitely capable of achieving that feat.
3. Can Yannick Agnel take home the mid-distance freestyle double?
Frenchman Yannick Agnel, the 2012 Olympic champion in the 200 free, will look to take home titles in the 200 and 400 freestyles this week. Agnel enters the meet with a seed time of 3:49.65 in the 400, which is outside the top eight but not far off top seed Stephen Milne of Great Britain (3:46.88). Agnel has been much faster in his career and wouldn’t even need a best time for gold. He’s seeded first in the 200 free at 1:44.20, which is just over a second faster than his best time of 2014, a 1:45.63 from French nationals in April. As one of the premier mid-distance freestyle specialists in the past couple years, double European Championship titles would be a nice addition to his already impressive resume.
4. Who will win the women’s 100 breast?
With 2012 Olympic champion and world record-holder Ruta Meilutyte opting not to swim the women’s 100 breast, the event is now somewhat open. Denmark’s Rikke Moeller Pedersen is the top seed with a 1:05.93, just under half a second ahead of Great Britain’s Sophie Taylor (1:06.35). Pedersen’s best time of 2014 is actually a bit slower at 1:06.19, from the Danish Open way back in March. After those two, several other swimmers are in the 1:07-range and could easily factor in for medals. It should be a great race featuring a few up-and-coming breaststroke talents.
5. How will the relays shake out?
Strong relays are always a great source of pride at major international meets, and the European Championships will be no different. In the men’s 400 free relay, France has picked up the last two major gold medals, in London and last summer at Worlds. They’ll be challenged at this meet by Russia, however, and could see that streak come to an end. France should be the favorite in the men’s 800 free relay as well, with plenty of firepower including Yannick Agnel. They’ll look for the gold medal sweep with a strong medley relay lineup as well. On the women’s side, The Netherlands will be without superstar sprinter Ranomi Kromowidjojo, but should still be the heavy favorites in the 400 free relay. In the 800 free relay, Katinka Hosszu and Mireia Belmonte Garcia should be huge factors for Hungary and Spain’s relays, as those two teams could unseat France, who no longer have Camille Muffat. Denmark, who traditionally is not as strong in the relays, actually has a great medley relay lineup on the women’s side with Mie Nielsen, Rikke Pedersen, Jeannette Ottesen and Pernille Blume the likely foursome.