2022 European Championship Previews: Absences Open The Door In Women’s Sprint Free

2022 European Aquatics Championships

The women’s sprint freestyle landscape in Europe looks significantly different than it has for the last decade, as Dutch legends Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk have both retired in the last nine months, as has the queen of the 200 free, Italian Federica Pellegrini.

Kromowidjojo won the women’s 50 free title last year, and Heemskerk is the reigning 100 free champion. In addition to those two absences, the winner of the four straight titles in the 100 free before Heemskerk’s 2021 win, Sarah Sjostrom, has opted out of the event in Rome.

In the 200 free, Pellegrini was the winner of four straight titles from 2010 to 2016, and then after taking a break from the event in 2018, was a close runner-up to Czech Republic’s Barbora Seemanova last year. Seemanova is another prominent name out of the competition after coming down with Lyme disease last month.

Also not racing is perennial contender in the sprints, Pernille Blume, who has won back-to-back silver medals in the 50 free at Euros and is also a two-time Olympic medalist in the event.

As a result, beyond Sjostrom in the 50 free, the women’s freestyle events are pretty wide open this year.

Women’s 50 Freestyle

Sjostrom’s sprint-heavy schedule is partly due to the fact that she came down with COVID-19 after the World Championships, so she’s managing her energy in Rome by opting to only race the 50 free and 50 fly individually.

Without the 100s on her program, Sjostrom will be able to really hone in on the 50s, and she’ll need to be at or near her best to win the 50 free as Poland’s Kasia Wasick is coming in with a ton of momentum.

Wasick was the runner-up to Sjostrom in the event at the World Championships in late June, as the Swede claimed gold in 23.98 while Wasick followed in a very solid 24.18.

The 30-year-old set a best time of 24.11 in the semi-finals in Budapest, and also put up a time of 24.17 last week at U.S. Summer Nationals.

Despite Wasick’s impressive consistency, Sjostrom has still been 24.11 or better five times this year, giving her the clear edge.

Great Britain’s Anna Hopkin, fresh off of competing at the Commonwealth Games, leads a group of eight more women who have been sub-25 this year and will be fighting it out for the bronze medal.

Hopkin, who was third last year behind Kromowidjojo and Wasick, was 24.60 at Worlds this year (placing seventh in the final at 24.71) and owns a best of 24.34 from 2019.

The 26-year-old was fifth at the Commonwealth Games in 24.83, which is a tad off her time from Worlds, but if she’s able to extend her taper into Euros she’s still the frontrunner for third.

Along with Sjostrom, Wasick and Hopkin, the other 2022 World Championship finalist in the field will be Denmark’s Julie Kepp Jensen, who owns a PB of 24.68 and clocked 24.86 to crack the top eight in Budapest.

The Netherlands’ Valerie Van Roon, Tessa Giele and France’s Marie Wattel have also been 24.8 this year and should factor into the final.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Ranking Swimmer Country Lifetime Best Season-Best
1 Sarah Sjostrom Sweden 23.67 23.98
2 Kasia Wasick Poland 24.11 24.11
3 Anna Hopkin Great Britain 24.34 24.60
4 Tessa Giele Netherlands 24.81 24.81
5 Julie Kepp Jensen Denmark 24.68 24.86

Women’s 100 Freestyle

The women’s 100 freestyle is anyone’s for the taking right now, as incredibly we’ll only see two of last year’s eight finalists in the field.

With Sjostrom out, the official top seed gets handed over to Anna Hopkin, who was 52.75 at the Tokyo Olympics last year. However, the fastest swimmer in the field in 2022 is Marrit Steenbergen, who swam a best time of 53.41 leading off the Dutch relay at the World Championships.

Steenbergen failed to crack 54 seconds in the individual event, and outside of that lead-off swim, hasn’t been in the 53s since 2017, so that raises some cause for concern that the 53.41 was more of an outlier. But nonetheless, in this weak field, she’s a medal threat.

For Hopkin, she really found the magic in Tokyo, producing the four fastest swims of her career, highlighted by a pair of sub-53s.

She failed to pick up an individual medal last week at the Commonwealth Games due to the strength of the Australians, but was a solid fourth place in the 100 free in a time of 53.57, just off her season-best of 53.45 from the British Championships.

Hopkin is the frontrunner right now, and the woman with the best chance of upending her may be her English teammate from the Commonwealth Games, Freya Anderson.

Anderson, 21, has shown flashes of brilliance in her young career, including sweeping the 100 and 200 free at the European SC Championships in 2019. She also won five relay gold medals last year in Budapest, and added an individual bronze in the 200 free.

In the 100, though she has generally performed better in relays, Anderson has been consistent with 16 swims between 53.31 and 53.93 since 2017, with her fastest in 2022 sitting at 53.92.

At the World Championships, despite placing 12th individually in a time of 54.19, Anderson split as fast as 52.70 on a relay. With a 53-mid likely all that’s required for gold, she’s a strong candidate to rise to the occasion.

With France’s Marie Wattel not entering this event, the only other swimmer in the field sub-54 this year is another Frenchwoman, Charlotte Bonnet.

Bonnet, 27, has been a consistent factor in this race, making three straight finals from 2014 to 2018, moving up from seventh, to fourth, and then bronze four years ago. She sat out of the event in 2021, but is back with a real shot at a medal this year having clocked 53.74 in April.

She stumbled a bit at Worlds, falling to 16th in the semis in 54.73, but did finish with a strong medley relay anchor of 53.23. Having had just under seven weeks to refresh, we’ll see if Bonnet can claw her way back onto the podium.

Slovenia’s Janja Segel and the Netherlands’ Tessa Giele will have a good chance to make the final, which will likely only take 54-mid to get into. Names like Silvia di PietroNikoletta PadarChiara Tarantino and Maria Ugolkova will have a shot as well.

Padar specifically is one to watch for, as the 16-year-old is rapidly rising through the ranks after sweeping the 100 and 200 free at Euro Juniors in early July.

The third British swimmer is Lucy Hope, who took on a busy workload at the Commonwealth Games representing Scotland and was only able to muster a 55-mid in the 100 free. She’s the fifth seed at 53.89, a time she went at last year’s Euros, and will need a quick turn of form if she hopes to do any damage in Rome

The third entry for France, Beryl Gastaldello, is a bit of a dark horse in both the 50 and 100 free, and her time of 54.24 from last June has her ranked up in sixth on the psych sheets. However, her long course swims have been off this year. She was 55-mid just under two weeks ago at a meet in France, so if she hits a good taper making the final is possible.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Ranking Swimmer Country Lifetime Best Season-Best
1 Freya Anderson Great Britain 53.31 53.92
2 Anna Hopkin Great Britain 52.75 53.45
3 Marrit Steenbergen Netherlands 53.41 53.41
4 Charlotte Bonnet France 52.74 53.74
5 Janja Segel Slovenia 54.26 54.26

Women’s 200 Freestyle

Freya Anderson hasn’t lowered her best time in the 100 free since 2019, but her 200 has been steadily progressing over the last two years, and she comes in as the top seed here after establishing a new best of 1:56.05 at the World Championships.

Anderson delivered that time to place first in the semis, and ultimately finished fourth in the final in 1:56.61.

Joining her in the Worlds final was Charlotte Bonnet and Isabel Gose, who will be two of her biggest challengers here.

Bonnet, the 2018 champion, may not be on the 1:54.9 form she was in Glasgow, but did produce her fastest swim since the 2019 World Championships this year with a 1:56.47 showing at the French Elite Championships in April.

Bonnet clocked 1:57.24 in the Budapest final to edge out Germany’s Gose (1:57.38) and tie with Canada’s Taylor Ruck for sixth.

Gose, 20, nearly matched her best time from the 2021 Olympics at Worlds to make the final with a swim of 1:56.82, and the multi-time European Junior champion will look to transition that success into the senior ranks this year.

Gose sat out of Euros last year, so the last time she raced them was in 2018, when, at just 16 years of age, she placed fifth in this event.

The other primary threat here is Slovenia’s Janja Segel, who incredibly set a best time of 1:58.38 in 2016 at the age of 15 that she only managed to lower this year.

Segel, now 21, has been faster than that four times over the last two and a half months, highlighted by a big personal best of 1:56.68 at last month’s Mediterranean Games where she won the gold medal.

Her teammate Katja Fain was the runner-up at the Mediterranean Games in the 200 free in 1:57.49 and also won bronze in the 200 free at the European SC Championships last November.

Fain and Segel had respective finishes of 13th and 14th at Worlds in late June, both clocking 1:58-lows, but have been extremely active and showed improved form in the weeks since, making them true medal contenders.

Other swimmers sub-1:58 this year include teenagers Freya Colbert (1:57.85) and Nikoletta Padar (1:57.91), who will be looking to shake things up over some of the established names. Between the two of them, Padar performed better at Worlds, but Colbert came back with a very impressive Commonwealth showing where she reset her best time by a five one-hundredths.

Belgium’s Valentine Dumont, Great Britain’s Lucy Hope and the Netherlands’ Marrit Steenbergen will also be in the mix.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Ranking Swimmer Country Lifetime Best Season-Best
1 Freya Anderson Great Britain 1:56.05 1:56.05
2 Isabel Gose Germany 1:56.80 1:56.82
3 Janja Segel Slovenia 1:56.68 1:56.68
4 Charlotte Bonnet France 1:54.95 1:56.47
5 Nikoletta Padar Hungary 1:57.91 1:57.91

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Scotty
1 month ago

Who can confirm BBC is streaming the euros tomorrow…..I could reminisce last year that it was streamed on BBC one

Alison England
Reply to  Scotty
1 month ago

Hopefully it will be available via Red Button, Scotty. Radio Times states it will be on Red Button on Friday, and on BBC2 at the weekend. No specific mention of swimming for Thursday though. Perhaps the British Swimming website or twitter will let us know.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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