European Juniors Take Aim at Championships Meet Records

By Oene Rusticus

ANTWERP, Belgium, July 20. NO less than four records were set during the third of the European Junior Swimming Championships in Antwerp, making this the most successful so far in 2007. Lizzie Simmonds and Christin Zenner set records in the 50 backstroke, while Yuliya Efimova swam an amazing 200 breaststroke. Dinko Jukic won two gold medals and sharpened the record for the 200 IM.

Lizzie Simmonds broke the Championship record of 29.34 set by Stanilava Komarova in the semis of the 50 backstroke. Her 29.18 was the result of a very powerful under water dolphin kick. In the final, she led again by one meter after the start, but last year's winner Christin Zenner could not be beaten that easy. The German sprinted to the finish and hit the wall just a little faster than the Brit. With 29.12 she was also the fastest swimmer, leaving her name in the books instead of Simmonds. Simmonds finished second in 29.24, a length ahead of Poland's Karolina Urbanska (30.21).

The race in the 200 breaststroke was open until the last turn when Russia's Yuliya Efimova doubled her stroke rate in the last 50 to sprint to a staggering 2.25.23. This time would have earned her a silver medal at the world championships in Melbourne. She broke the Championship record set in 2002 by Mirna Jukic by more than a second. Her teammate Vitalina Simonova (2.29.10) out-touched Hanna Westrin (2.29.44) from Sweden in the battle for silver. Belgian Elise Matthysen, silver medallist in the 50, closely followed in fourth place (2.29.88).

After winning the 1500 freestyle, the 800 was an easy target for Elena Sokolova. Leading from the start the Russian finished in 8.38.80. France's Margaux Fabre placed second in 8.47.64. Fanni Szeder collected her second bronze in 8.50.23 after Wednesday's mile.

The 100 freestyle sprint was a race to remember, with fastest qualifier Sergey Fesikov battling against home crowd favoured Yoris Grandjean. The Russian had a good start and was leading by 0.52 halfway, but Grandjean demonstrated why he is the reigning world youth champion in this event. The Belgian won gold in 49.91, just 0.06 ahead of Fesikov. Oleg Tikhobaev picked up the remaining medal for Russia in 50.63. Marcin Tarczynski from Poland and Olexandr Isakov from the Ukraine tied for fourth in 50.69.

Mattia Pesce succeeded in defending his gold medal in the 50 breaststroke, and finished first in 28.43. Serbia's Caba Siladji followed the Italian closely and collected silver before Viktar Vabishchevich from Belarus in 28.53 to 28.62.

Fastest qualifier in the semis of the 200 butterfly, Dinko Jukic took the lead from the start. But halfway the Austrian was passed by the swimmers in the outer lanes. Breathing to both sides, he noticed them. He out-classed them in the second 100 with powerful strokes and set a time of 1.59.57 to earn gold. Italy's Federico Bussolin won the battle for silver in 2.00.33. Swimming in lane 1, Peter Thompson took the bronze for Britain in 2.00.69.

Dinko Jukic is a genuine IM'er, having no weak strokes. Just an hour after his 200 fly crown, he led the 200 IM from the start and finished solid first in 2.01.34. He bettered the Championship record of James Goddard set in 2001 by 1.32 seconds. Mateusz Matczak from Poland earned silver in 2.03.46, followed by Vadym Fastenko from the Ukraine (2.04.29).

The last event of the third day was the 800 freestyle relay for men. Germany was leading until the last take-over, but when Mikhail Polishchuk split 1.48.69 the battle was over and the Russians won gold in 7.23.34. Germany was left with silver (7.23.56). Italy earned bronze (7.24.38).