European Championships: Apostolos Papastamos Blasts Top-10 Time to Win 400 IM

Photo Courtesy: FINA / Budapest 2019

European Championships: Apostolos Papastamos Blasts Top-10 Time to Win 400 IM

Apostolos Papastamos started off the first finals session of the 2024 European Championships with a top-10 time in the world this year to earn gold.

The Greek swimmer went 4:10.83 to win by nearly a second. That’s the ninth-fastest time in the world in 2024, accounting for Sunday night’s final at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

It seals for Papastamos a second Olympic berth.

“My last personal best was four years ago so it is very special for me,” he said. “I did my best, it was a very good time, I made the Olympic A cut. So now we are looking forward to Paris and the Olympic Games and I hope the best for it.”

A recap of the first night in Belgrade:

Men’s 50 butterfly semifinals

Stergios Marios Bilas led the way in semifinals with a time of 23.06 for Greece. He won the second semifinal heat. Second overall was Heat 1 winner Meiron Cheruti in 23.20. Szebasztian Szabo was third in 23.23, followed by Simon Bucher and Vladyslav Bukhov, tied in 23.29. Among the finalists is Romania’s Denis-Laurean Popescu, who survived a swim off to reach the semis then edged Casper Puggaard by .023 in 23.45.

Hubert Kos finished last in his semifinal heat. The prelims swims by Kos and Szabo cost Kristof Milak a spot in the semis, with Hungary limited to two swimmers per. Milak was 12th in prelims in 23.63.

Women’s 100 free semifinals

Quickest in prelims, Barbora Seemanova again set the pace in semifinals by going 53.95. Her time was two tenths ahead of Nikolett Padar of Hungary. Czechia has two in the top three, with Barbora Janickova third. Kalia Antoniou was fourth for Cyprus. A tie for seventh between Andrea Murez and Minna Abraham in 54.90 denied Signe Bro a place in the final.

Men’s 400 individual medley

Apostolos Papastamos was fifth in prelims, the best of the non-Hungarians in the race. But the 23-year-old Greek swimmer was nearly five seconds quicker in the finals to go 4:10.83. That would’ve been good for bronze at the 2024 World Championships. It also trounces his national record of 4:11.93, which he had used to win the 2019 World Junior Championship ahead of Ilya Borodin and a certain Leon Marchand, the pair good friends to this day.

Hungary took the other two podium spots. Balazs Hollo surged ahead of countryman Gabor Zombori on the final 50 meters to take silver in 4:11.51. Zombori went 4:11.60. Greece’s Daniil Giortzidis was a distant fourth.

Much like in the 50 fly, Hungary had more swimmers than the final could hold. They took the top four spots in the morning, with Dominik Torok third and Zalan Sarkany fourth.

Papastamos admitted it was a big relief to make the Olympic cut with less than a week to go before the window closes. So too could he heave a sigh of relief after finally winning a place on a senior podium, five years after his junior success.

“It was very hard because I am trying over four years to make it so I have downs and ups and downs and ups so it was my time and it is very beautiful,” the native of Crete said. “…  It is amazing to do it for Greece, for young swimmers in Greece so I hope to be an inspiration for all of them.”

Women’s 200 backstroke semifinals

Dora Molnar leads a Hungarian 1-2 into the final. Molnar went 2:09.67 to lead the semifinals, but any of five swimmers could win this. Eszther Szabo was second in 2:10.21, .05 up on Adela Piskorska of Poland.

Britain’s Holly McGill was fourth with Camila Rebelo of Portugal fifth.

Men’s 100 breaststroke semifinals

Melvin Imoudu set the pace in the 100 breast in 59.28. He was a quarter second ahead of Turkey’s Berkay Ogretir, with Lucas Matzerath third in 59.71. Jan Kalusowski of Poland and Bernhard Reitshammer both broke a minute.

Ron Polonsky, who finished third in the morning, was disqualified in semis. Lithuanian Andrius Sidlauskas, who was quickest in prelims, advanced to finals but only in sixth.

Women’s 800 free relay

Israel didn’t just hit a national record in their 800 free relay. They demolished it by more than seven seconds.

The quartet of Anastasia Gorbenko, Daria Golovaty, Ayla Spitz and Leah Polonsky led wire to wire to win in 7:51.83. That’s more than seven seconds quicker than the national record the same four set in Fukuoka at 7:59.02.

Israel outdueled Hungary, which finished second in 7:52.92. The margin was more than three seconds after 300 meters before Nikolett Padar made it interesting with a 1:55.87 that was the fastest of the meet. Minna Abraham, Ajna Kesely and Dora Molnar rounded out the foursome.

Turkey edged Germany by .09 seconds for third, overcoming Celine Rieder on the anchor.

Men’s 800 free relay

Lithuania ended the first day of the meet with a gold medal, going 7:08.04 to trim their national record by nearly two seconds from their time at Doha Worlds. Thomas Navikonis, Tomas Lukminas, Kristupas Trepoca and Danys Rapsys (1:44.90 on the end) set the mark. They had been 7:09.97 at Worlds and 7:09.75 in the morning, the latter with Rokas Jazdauskas anchoring.

Hungary (Nandor Nemeth, Balasz Hollo, Richard Marton, Hubert Kos) was second in 7:09.59. They edged Greece and Israel, with both teams under 7:10.

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