Lizzie Simmonds Tears Up Final Day of European Junior Championships

By Oene Rusticus

ANTWERP, Belgium, July 23. THE last day of the European Junior Swimming Championships featured no less than 11 finals. Seven Championship records were set by Lizzie Simmonds, Hanna Westrin, Ivan Lendjar, Daniel Gyurta and the medley relay teams of Italy and Great Britain.

The 400 IM was a great race, where three swimmers were leading the field on their best strokes. Dinko Jukic started the fly in 57.77, Yannick Lebherz had the best backstroke, and winner of the 400 freestyle Mateusz Matczak moved forward on the breaststroke. The Polish swimmer finished the 400 first to collect gold in 4.18.40. Austria's Jukic picked up silver (4.21.61), the German finished third in 4.23.49.

Jukic started again in the 100 butterfly where he grabbed bronze in 53.97. Silver medallist in the 50, Lendjar from Serbia finished first in 53.21 on the 100. He bettered the Championship record of Rimvydas Salcius set in 2003 by .04 seconds. Second place went to Yauheni Lazuka from Belarus (53.90).

Gyurta proved once again to be the best breaststroker at youth level. In a personal best, he finished in 1.01.70 in the final of the 100, sharpening his own Championship record. The field was very strong, as Edoardo Giorgetti (1.02.32) and Giedrius Titenis (1.02.51) collected the remaining medals in great times.

Mikhail Polishchuk outclassed his competitors in the 200 freestyle. He set the fastest split in the 800 freestyle relay to bring home the gold for Russia, individually he set 1.48.90 to win. Israel's Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or set 1.50.36 to collect silver, leaving bronze for Glenn Surgeloose (1.50.79) from the organizing country Belgium.

The 50 freestyle sprint had 8 potential gold medal winners, the race was very close. Russia's Sergey Fesikov touched the wall first to get his first individual gold medal at this level. Many times the last few years he was close, but in his final attempt he succeeded. His teammate Oleg Tikhobaev followed closely in 22.63 to 22.64. Bronze was left for Luca Dotto from Italy (22.90).

Italy won the men's 400 medley relay in a new Championship record. The team of Damiano Lestingi, Mattia Pesce, Marco Pellizzon and Michele Santucci set 3.41.21. Great Britain (3.44.29) won silver over Hungary (3.44.43).

Simmonds continued her show in the 100 backstroke final, leading the field by more than a length, she finished in a splendid 1.01.37. Again a Championship record for Simmonds, bettering the time set by Diana Mocanu in 2000. The rest of the field was led by Christin Zenner (1.03.35) and Iwona Lefanowicz (1.03.58) who picked up the remaining medals for Germany and Poland.

Backstroke is not the only stroke Simmonds practices, as she proved in the 200 IM. She just missed her second Championship record of the day by .02 seconds (also owned by Diana Mocanu), but did win her second gold of the day in 2.14.44. Germany's Theresa Michalak followed closely in 2.14.75, miles ahead of Francesca Aceto from Italy who won bronze in 2.18.65.

The women's 50 butterfly sprint was won by Beatrix Bordas. The Hungarian set 27.19. Croatia's Monika Babok (27.48) and Frances Melanie Henique (27.57) finished second and third.

The 100 breaststroke was one of the most exiting of the afternoon, with Yuliya Efimova, winner of the 50 and 200 battling with last year's silver medallist Hanna Westrin from Sweden. Efimova took the lead on the 50, by more than a second, but Westrin moved up the second 50 and just out-touched the Russian. In the process she set a Championship record of 1.09.17, bettering Grace Callaghan's time of 2003. Silver went to Efimova (1.09.28), while her teammate Vitalina Simonova collected bronze in 1.10.29. Only two swimmers per country are allowed in the finals, so Ekaterina Baklakova had to watch the event from the stand, as third swimmer in the heats with 1.10.64.

The British swimmers set two Championship records in the women's 400 medley relay. Simmonds clocked 1.01.33 to better her freshly set time in the 100 backstroke by 0.04. Alexandra Warren, Ellen Gandy and Lauren Collins finished the job in 4.09.29. Silver medallist Russia also broke her own Championship with 4.10.24 and Sweden (4.13.21) followed at a few lengths.

Click here to view full results PDF file.

Sergey Fesikov at the European Junior Championships