16-Year-Old Merve Tuncel Hits 4:06 400 Free on Final Night in European Juniors; Poland Claims Four Gold Medals in Rome

Merve Tuncel. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

The final night of the 2021 European Junior Swimming Championships concluded Sunday from Rome, Italy with Turkey’s Merve Tuncel and Bosnia’s 15-year-old Lana Pudar showcasing the future of swimming in Europe with their stellar swims in the Italian capital.

Both Tuncel and Pudar will be representing their home nations in two weeks at the Olympic Games as they will likely head straight to the Games in Japan after this week-long racing stint in Rome. Tuncel, 16, and Pudar, 15, have shown great promise for Turkey and Bosnia & Herzegovina respectively with their swims this summer.


Lana Pudar won the 100 butterfly at the European Junior Swimming Championships. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Lana Pudar started the night with a 57.56 in the 100 butterfly, which was off her 57.37 from earlier this season which put her tied for eighth in the world rankings among those swimmers going to the Olympics. She just missed the meet record of 57.39 from Anastasia Shkurdai from two years ago but the 15-year-old won ahead of Russia’s Daria Klepikova (58.07) and Anastasia Markova (58.73), and it backs up her two silvers earlier in the week in the 50 and 200 butterfly.

16-year-old Merve Tuncel of Turkey won her third gold medal of the week, finishing off the distance freestyle hat trick with a 4:06.25 in the 400 freestyle, which improves her season best of 4:07.78 and puts her 12th in the world this year among those qualified for the Games. Tuncel, who won the 800 and 1500 free this week in Rome in 1-2 finishes with fellow Turkish teammates, won ahead of Hungary’s Bettina Fabian (4:10.16) and Italy’s Giulia Vetrano (4:12.23).

Tuncel was just off the meet record of 4:05.89 set by Hungary’s Ajna Kesely in 2018.

Turkey’s Beril Boecekler, who won silver behind Tuncel in the 800, finished fourth and off the podium at 4:14.38.

Turkey also swept the three men’s distance freestyle events with Yigit Aslan winning the men’s 800 on the final night of the European Junior Swimming Championships with a new meet record of 7:51.20 in a 1-2 finish with Mert Kilavuz (7:52.19). Aslan broke the previous meet record set in 2019 by Russia’s Ilia Sibirtsev, who is now at the University of Louisville, at 7:52.83.

Interestingly, Turkey won all three distance free races with three different guys as Kilavuz won the 1500 and Batuhan Filiz won the 400. Aslan finished in bronze in the 1500 and upgraded to win the 800 with a new season best, improving his 7:51.6 from earlier this year. Aslan will be representing Turkey at the Olympic Games in two weeks.

David Popovici Concludes Stellar Week With 22.2 50 Free Gold

16-year-old Romanian David Popovici, who doesn’t turn 17 until September 15, put the world on notice with his freestyle prowess this week in Rome, blasting a 47.30 in the 100 freestyle earlier in the week before following that up with a 1:45.2 in the 200 freestyle. With less than two weeks until the Olympics, Popovici has let the swimming universe know his name, and will get a chance to prove himself on the sport’s biggest stage in Japan.

On Sunday evening in Rome, Popovici won his third gold medal with a 22.22 in the 50 freestyle. The time does not meet the FINA A standard, and it shows that he has more room to improve his raw speed, while his back end speed in the 100 has put him as a gold medal spoiler for Tokyo when he lines up alongside two-time reigning World champ Caeleb Dressel of the United States and defending Olympic champ Kyle Chalmers of Australia.

Poland Takes Four Gold Medals on Final Night

MASIUK Ksawery

Ksawery Masiuk won gold on the final night of the European Junior Swimming Championships in Rome. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Poland had yet to win a gold medal at the European Junior Swimming Championships until Sunday night when the nation won three gold medals – starting with twins Krzysztof and Michal Chmielewski taking the top two spots in the 200 butterfly final. Krzysztof led the race from start to finish, touching the wall at 1:56.29, which is a little off his season best of 1:55.46, but enough to win him the gold before he goes off to Tokyo. His twin brother Michal, who celebrated the pair’s 17th birthday in June, finished with the silver at 1:57.09, running down Russian top seed Vadim Klimenishchev (1:57.49).

Another swimmer headed to Tokyo, 15-year-old Laura Bernat won the 200 backstroke on the final night in Rome with a 2:10.14 as she has been as quick as a 2:09.8 already this year. Bernat won the final ahead of Great Britain’s Katie Shanahan, who swept the IM events this week as well as a silver in the 100 back, and swam a 2:11.27 to grab silver ahead of Italy’s Erika Gaetani (2:11.46), who won the 100 earlier in the week. Bernat is Poland’s youngest swimmer on their Olympic team this year as she will make her debut come two weeks in Tokyo.

Ksawery Masiuk won the men’s 200 back for Poland as he will not be in Tokyo, but swam a beautifully-paced race to win gold at 1:58.41. Turning fourth at the 150, Masiuk was nearly a full second behind leader Kaloyan Levterov of Bulgaria at the halfway point, while 200 IM champ Berke Saka was lingering as well. At the 150 turn, Masiuk again flipped fourth, some 1.3 seconds behind Levterov, and split a 28.95 on the final 50 to run down the field, with Saka claiming silver (1:59.02) and Levterov (1:59.13) with bronze.

Masiuk returned to finish the session with another gold medal, leading off Poland’s 4×100 medley relay team to a gold medal with a 3:37.46 over Russia (3:39.30) and the Ukraine (3:39.43). Masiuk (54.41), Bartosz Skora (1:01.34), Pawel Uryniuk (52.92) and Mateusz Chowaniec (48.79) claimed the gold after the Ukraine was leading through 300 meters, thanks to gold medalist Volodymyr Lisovets (1:00.55) powering to the front on breaststroke and Andriy Kovalenko (53.06) holding it on fly, but they did not have enough with Vadym Ivchenko (51.31) unable to hold off Vladislav Reznichenko (49.33) of Russia on the freestyle leg.

Russia Finishes With Women’s Medley Gold at European Junior Swimming Championships


Eneli Jefimova of Estonia – 100 breast gold medalist. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

The Russian Federation concluded the meet with gold in the women’s 4×100 medley relay with the team of Aleksandra Kurilkina (1:03.26), Elena Bogomolova (1:06.79), Anastasiia Markova (58.12) and Daria Klepikova (54.55) touching at 4:02.72. The time missed their own meet record of 4:01.83 from 2019, but the team also had to swim from behind the majority of the race with France leading through 300 meters.

The French team of Mary-Ambre Moluh (1:01.41), Justine Delmas (1:07.54), Lucie Delmas (59.08) and Lucie Vasquez (55.66) won the silver at 4:03.69 with Great Britain in the bronze position at 4:07.49 thanks to a stellar anchor leg from Tamryn Van Selm (54.69).


Cedric Buessing of Germany – 400 IM gold medalist. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Russia’s Daria Tatarinova won the 50 freestyle gold medal with a 24.87 as she was the only one under 25 seconds in the final and lowered the meet record of 25.02 from Maria Kameneva in 2016 as Kameneva is going to be a podium favorite for Tokyo in three weeks for this event. Tatarinova won ahead of Croatia’s Jana Pavalic (25.35) and Great Britain’s Eva Okaro (25.45).

Russia’s Elena Bogomolova nearly celebrated two golds on the night, but she was out-touched in the 100 breast final by 14-year-old Eneli Jefimova of Estonia, who won with a 1:07.24 to Bogomolova’s 1:07.25. Jefimova had been as quick as a 1:06.4 this year as she is ranked 14th in the world among the Tokyo qualifiers two weeks ahead of her Olympic debut in Tokyo. Poland’s Karolina Piechowicz (1:08.93) celebrated the bronze medal on a great night for Polish swimming.

Germany’s Cedric Buessing also won the 400 IM with a 4:17.40 ahead of Jakub Bursa (4:19.20) of the Czech Republic and Artem Vorobev (4:20.21) of Russia

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