European Junior Championships Close with a Flourish

By Oene Rusticus

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain, July 9. THE last day of the European Junior Championships was a busy day, with 11 individual finals and two relays. Two championship records fell in the sprints when Britain’s Halsall edged the mark in the 50 freestyle and Rafael Munoz gave his Spanish fans a great performance in the 50 butterfly.

The Polish and Italian swimmers made the men’s 200 breaststroke a great event. Edoardo Giorgetti from Italy took the lead, but in the last 50 the field was gaining on him. The winner of the 100 breaststroke, Poland’s Slawomir Wolniak came close, but came up short at the finish, .19 behind Giorgetti – 2:15.00 to 2:15.19. Luca Pizzini grabbed bronze for Italy in 2:15.69, just ahead of Chris Boe Christensen from Denmark who finished in 2:15.72.

The final of the 100 freestyle was an open race, with the top eight competitors from the semifinals within a second. The race was decided at the finish when Yoris Grandjean from Belgium, swimming in Lane 8, touched the wall first in 50.89, just .01 faster than Romania’s Norbert Trandafir. The battle for bronze resulted in a tie between Italy’s Michele Santucci and Sweden’s Sebastian Wikstroem who both finished in 51.15. The top qualifier in the semis was Riccardo D’Acquisto with a swim of 50.63, but he missed the battle for the medals.

The 200 individual medley seemed to be decided after the breaststroke lap when Estonia’s Martin Liivamagi started the last 50 one second ahead of his competitors, but Hungarians Gergo Kis and David Verraszto, first and second in the 400 IM, sprinted forward in the freestyle. Kis passed Liivamagi in the battle for gold and finished first in 2:03.53, ahead of the Estonian who hit the wall in 2:03.67, just before Verraszto (2:03.89). Russia’s Alexander Tikhonov in Lane 1 was close, but finished .05 from bronze.

Ivan Tolic from Croatia had a great turn in the 100 backstroke and was leading the field, but halfway into the last length he got strangled in the lane lines in the open air of Mallorca, like he did in the 50 on the first day. Italy’s Damiano Lestingi and Janos Szabo from Hungary passed him. At the finish Lestingi grabbed the gold and finished first in 56.85 ahead of Szabo (57.16). Bronze was left for Tolic in 57.31.

Rafael Munoz from Spain set a new championship record in the 50 butterfly, clocking 24.21, .20 faster than Alexei Puninski from Croatia in 2003 in Glasgow. Mario Todorovic also swam under the time of his countryman Puninski, clocking 24.28 to collect silver. Bronze was left for Todorovic’ teammate Dominik Straga in 24.62.

In the women’s 50 freestyle sprint it was Francesca Halsall who was victorious for Great Britain in 25.28, quite a bit faster than the championship record of 25.53 that was set in 2001 by Aliaksandra Herasimenia. Holland’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo took silver in 25.81, while Daryna Stepanyuk from the Ukraine just out-touched Italy’s Camilia Daolio, 26.05 to 26.07, in the battle for bronze.

The 200 freestyle was won by Spain’s Mireia Belmonte in 2:01.61. From Lane 1 she passed the field. Francesca Halsall clocked 2:01.93 to win silver while Ophelie Etienne from France took bronze in 2:02.00. The 200 IM was easily won by Olga Shulgina (Russia) in 2:15.42, followed by Austria’s Nina Dittrich in 2:17.86. From Lane 1, Hungary’s Eszter Dara won the battle for bronze in 2:18.22.

Just an hour later, Dara surprisingly won the 100 butterfly. Breathing on the side, she could see her competitors in Lanes 4 and 5 as she passed them in the last few meters. Dara finished in 1:00.55 while Britain’s Jemma Lowe got second in 1:00.74. Liara Bianchi from Italy out-touched Jessica Dickons, who won the 200 fly, in the battle for bronze, 1:01.05 to 1:01.15.

Lizzie Simmonds showed her power in the 200 backstroke, winning the event for Great Britain in 2:12.78, three seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Russians Anastasia Zueva (2:15.48) and Oxana Shlapakova (2:15.83) earned the remaining medals.

Anna Kuzmicheva from Russia and Hanna Westrin from Sweden fought a great battle in the 100 breaststroke. Kuzmicheva had a slightly higher stroke rate, which gave her the advantage at the finish, where she touched first in 1:09.95. Westrin took silver (1:10.19), ahead of Katarzyna Dembniak and Luiza Hryniewicz from Poland who shared bronze in 1:11.61.

The men’s 400 medley relay was an exiting race to watch, with both outer lanes leading the field. During the freestyle the field got together again, sprinting to the finish. It was Spain that finished first in 3:47.63, one second ahead of the rest of the field. Poland had the best finish in the race for silver, but the margin was minimal, 3:48.64 to 3:48.68 for Great Britain. The rest of the teams followed closely within half a second.

In the women’s 400 medley relay, Great Britain was among the teams who got disqualified in the heats because of false-starting after clocking a time of 4:14. Without the Brits, it was Russia that easily won gold in 4:12.63, followed by Hungary (4:14.41) and France (4:15.09).