2022 European Championship Previews: Italy’s Time To Shine In Men’s Relays

2022 EUROPEAN AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

At the last edition of the European Championships in May 2021, the same trio of nations stood on the podium in all three men’s relays: Russia, Great Britain and Italy.

With Russia banned from competing and the Brits facing a number of key absences after racing at the Commonwealth Games last week, the door is open for Italy to pounce. After the Italian men won the country’s first-ever World Championship gold medal in a relay in June, they’re now in a position to win their first LC European relay title in a decade.

MEN’S 4X100 FREESTYLE RELAY

  • World Record: 3:08.24, United States – 2008 Olympic Games
  • European Record: 3:08.32, France – 2008 Olympic Games
  • European Championship Record: 3:10.41, Russia – 2021
  • 2020 European Champion: Russia, 3:10.41

It’s a tad bit surprising that Italy hasn’t won the men’s 4×100 free relay at the European Championships since 2006 given that they’ve been a consistent presence in the event over the years at the Olympics and World Championships.

The Italians have won a medal in five straight editions of Euros dating back to 2012, and this year looks like their time to finally get back on top of the podium.

Italy has three men seeded inside the top seven in the 100 free, led by Alessandro Miressi, the 2018 European champion in the event and last year’s runner-up. He’s joined by 100 backstorke world record holder Thomas Ceccon, who has been as fast as 47.71 from a flat start, and Lorenzo Zazzeri, who has shown marked improvement this year.

Zazzeri broke 48 seconds for the first time at the World Championships in 47.96, a time that landed him in a swim-off for the eighth spot in the final. Though he fell to Hungarian Nandor Nemeth, Zazzeri showed consistency with another strong swim of 48.04.

The fourth member of the squad in Rome projects to be Manuel Frigo, the 13th seed in the 100 free who anchored the team to bronze at the World Championships in 47.65.

This gives Italy the same four swimmers they had in the relay at Worlds, where Miressi was the “weak link” after leading off in 48.38. The others all split between 47.3 and 47.6, giving them a final time of 3:10.95, and it will be tough for anyone to challenge them in front of their home crowd.

Great Britain, Hungary and Serbia were the other European nations in the final at Worlds, with both the Brits (3:11.14) and Hungarians (3:11.24) coming close to Italy.

Great Britain will be in tough due to some noteworthy absences, though they’ve still got plenty of talent and should be on the podium.

They’re missing Lewis Burras, the British Record holder in the 100 free who led them off at Worlds, and they also won’t have Duncan Scott, who was also absent at the World Championships but could’ve taken over Burras’ role had he been in Rome.

Tom DeanMatt Richards and Jacob Whittle give them three very strong legs, and Edward Mildred will likely slide into the fourth spot with no Burras, Scott, or even James Guy, who split 48.29 on the prelim relay at Worlds. Mildred swam a best of 48.77 last summer, and most recently led off Team England’s prelim relay at the Commonwealth Games in 49.22.

That puts Great Britain a notch behind the Italians, though Dean, Richards and Whittle all appear on good form and should keep things pretty close.

The Hungarians will also be a real threat with Nemeth having clocked a National Record of 47.69 to win that swim-off at the World Championships, and Szebasztian Szabo and Kristof Milak having split 47.37 and 46.89, respectively, in that Budapest relay.

Similar to the Brits, Hungary has three very strong legs and then one weak one, as they still finished less than three-tenths outside of bronze in Budapest despite having a 49.01 split from Richard Bohus.

In Rome, the fourth leg will likely go to Daniel Meszaros, who swam a best of 49.51 in April.

Serbia will be led by Andrej Barna, who has been sub-48 flat start, and they’ll also have Nikola Acin and Uros Nikolic from the Budapest relay. Their fourth leg, Velimir Stjepanovic, had to pull out of the meet due to injury, making them shorthanded.

Among the other countries, one team to keep an eye on is France. Although their relay has fallen from being a championship title contender to sometimes not even fielding enough sprinters to make up a relay team, France has got a solid lineup heading to Rome led by 100 free World Championship silver medalist Maxime Grousset.

Add in Hadrien SalvanCharles Rihoux and Guillaume Guth, and the French should have a quartet worthy of the top five.

Israel was ninth at Worlds but is missing half of their team, while Sweden is another nation to watch out as they’ll be led by a pair of Cal swimmers in Bjorn Seeliger and Robin Hanson.

We’re hesitant to put much stock into Greece, as Kristian Gkolomeev isn’t entered in the 100 free individually, but they do have the same four swimmers who finished fifth last year and clocked 3:13.39.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Rank Country 2022 Worlds Time (Finish) 2021 Euros Finish
1 Italy 3:10.95 (3rd) 3rd
2 Great Britain 3:11.14 (4th) 2nd
3 Hungary 3:11.24 (5th) 4th
4 France N/A N/A
5 Serbia 3:13.83 (8th) 7th

MEN’S 4X200 FREESTYLE RELAY

  • World Record: 6:58.55, United States – 2009 World Championships
  • European Record: 6:58.58, Great Britain – 2021 Olympic Games
  • European Championship Record: 7:03.48, Russia – 2021
  • 2020 European Champion: Russia, 7:03.48

The last two editions of the European Championships has seen the men’s 4×200 free relay fought out between Russia and Great Britain, and not only are the Russians banned from competing in Rome, the Brits bring in a pared-down roster that makes them vulnerable.

Two mainstays of the relay in the last six years, Duncan Scott and James Guy, won’t be competing. They’ve still got half of their Olympic-winning squad from last year in Tom Dean and Matt Richards, and they’ll need others to step up if they want to regain the title they won in 2018.

Jacob Whittle supplied a solid 1:46.8 leg at the World Championships as the Brits won bronze, and the next man up will likely be either Cameron Kurle or Kieran Bird, who were both 1:48.9 flat-start at the Commonwealth Games. Edward Mildred joins Dean, Richards and Whittle as Great Britain’s individual entrants in the 200 free, though he’s only broken 1:50 once and it came three years ago.

Looking to jump on the opportunity will be Hungary, who was fifth at Worlds, just over two seconds back of the Brits in 7:06.27.

With Kristof Milak supposedly putting an increased emphasis on freestyle, Nandor Nemeth splitting sub-1:46 in Budapest and Richard Marton having led off that 7:06 relay in a time (1:48.12) significantly slower than he was in the relay prelims (1:46.52), Hungary figures to pose a very real threat to the Brits.

The fourth member should be Balazs Hollo, who split 1:47.03 in the prelims and 1:47.74 in the final in Budapest. Hungary will need Marton and Hollo to save their best for the final here, but if they do, they could win. Milak versus Dean on the anchor leg could be quite the spectacle.

Using each country’s best possible foursome this year, Hungary actually comes out on top:

Great Britain Hungary
Cameron Kurle – 1:47.75 Richard Marton – 1:46.52
Jacob Whittle – 1:46.80 Nandor Nemeth – 1:45.73
Matt Richards – 1:46.47 Balazs Hollo – 1:47.03
Tom Dean – 1:43.53 Kristof Milak – 1:44.68
7:04.55 7:03.96

Italy has won bronze three straight times in this event, and will surely be looking to make up for a ninth-place finish at Worlds where they missed the final by less than two-tenths. That included leaving their top swimmer, Marco De Tullio, off the prelim team.

De Tullio was 10th in the 200 free in Budapest in 1:46.29, and they bring a solid roster to Rome where they can select who is performing best out of Stefano Di ColaFilippo MegliGabriele Detti and breakout distance star Lorenzo Galossi.

The Italians should be good for four legs in the 1:46-mid-range, maybe one 1:47, but have no real game changers to speak of.

France made the World Championship final and finished seventh, but are missing two pieces in Jordan Pothain and Leon Marchand. However, their two quickest legs from Budapest, Roman Fuchs and Hadrien Salvan, will be present, both capable of 1:46 splits.

They’ve also got Wissam-Amazigh Yebba and Enzo Tesic, who have been 1:47-high/1:48-low this year, respectively, so France should be able to ice a decent team.

Among the rest of the countries entered (there are only 12), the edge probably goes to Israel, which have three of their four swimmers from Worlds who placed them 12th, led by Denis Loktev.

Germany is a bit of a dark horse, as they’ve got Lukas MaertensPoul Zellman, and a few more distance specialists who should be able to step in seamlessly.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Rank Country 2022 Worlds Time (Finish) 2021 Euros Finish
1 Hungary 7:06.27 (5th) 10th
2 Great Britain 7:04.00 (3rd) 2nd
3 Italy 7:10.16 (9th) 3rd
4 France N/A 4th
5 Israel 7:12.70 (10th) 9th

MEN’S 4X100 MEDLEY RELAY

  • World Record: 3:26.78, United States – 2021 Olympic Games
  • European Record: 3:27.51, Great Britain / Italy – 2021 Olympic Games / 2022 World Championships
  • European Championship Record: 3:28.59, Great Britain – 2021
  • 2020 European Champion: Great Britain, 3:28.59

There’s no bigger favortite in the men’s relays than Italy in the medley, as they’re coming off a stunning upset of the Americans at the World Championships in June.

When you’ve got newly-minted 100 back world record holder Thomas Ceccon, 100 breast world champion Nicolo Martinenghi, a bevy of freestyle options to choose from and a couple of flyers able to step up at the right time, you’re in good shape.

Italy will almost surely have the two other members of that squad that tied the European Record in the final in Rome, Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi. Burdisso was the only swimmer who was a maybe question mark coming into that relay, but he came through with a massive 50.63 split.

Thanks in part to Adam Peaty, Great Britain has won this event four straight times at Euros, but they’ll be without their star breaststroker here. In fact, the same three swimmers have done breast, fly and free on each of the last three winning relays for the Brits at Euros, and none will be in Rome, with James Guy (fly) and Duncan Scott (free) also out.

James Wilby and Tom Dean figure to assume the breast and free legs, it will be Luke Greenbank or Brodie Williams on back, and then Edward Mildred and Jacob Peters will fight it out for the fly spot.

The team of Williams, Wilby, Guy and Dean clocked 3:31.80 to win the Commonwealth title for England last week (with Greenbank at Worlds, they were 3:31.31), and subbing in Mildred’s best fly leg from the Games puts them just a touch over 3:32.

That could be enough for silver, and given Dean’s recent relay heroics, it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking them out in a close battle. But there will be some other teams nearby.

France, Germany and Austria all made the final at Worlds and were in the 3:32s, led by the French team who will be missing butterfly swimmer Leon Marchand.

However, France has a strong backstroker in Yohann Ndoye Brouard and one of the world’s best freestylers in Maxime Grousset, and will need breaststroker Antoine Viquerat (1:00.3 split at Worlds) and likely flyer Clement Secchi (PB of 52.31) to be at their best.

Germany loses their back-half from Worlds which puts them in a tough spot, while Austria has their full lineup in Bernhard ReitshammerValentin BayerSimon Bucher and Heiko Gigler. That foursome combined for a time of 3:32.80 in Budapest, and it would be a significant feat if they managed to get on the podium here, with the country only having one other male relay medal at Euros in history, having won bronze in the 4×200 free back in 2008.

Just last year, Austria set a National Record of 3:36.62 at Euros to finish 12th.

Poland didn’t race this at Worlds but do have all the pieces for a strong team: Ksawery Masiuk, Jan KozakiewiczJakub Majerski and Karol Ostrowski. Kacper Stokowski (also competing in Rome), Kozakiewicz and Majerski featured on the team that placed fourth one year ago.

SwimSwam’s Predictions

Rank Country 2022 Worlds Time (Finish) 2021 Euros Finish
1 Italy 1st (3:27.51) 3rd
2 Great Britain 3rd (3:31.31) 1st
3 Austria 7th (3:32.80) 12th
4 France 5th (3:32.37) 5th
5 Poland N/A 4th

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NathenDrake
1 month ago

The Indianapolis magic four has a great chemistry, but I dont know Holló or Márton can swim really fast twice in a year.
Németh is capable of and Milák is Milák.

Marton has the same coach as Milák, and Virth predicts new pbs in 200 free and 200 butterfly from him.

choosy
Reply to  NathenDrake
1 month ago

Balázs (Holló) had the covid, that’s why he will skip the 400 medley and swim only the relay, so we’ll see what he is capable of. I hope Kristóf won’t swim in the prelims, he will have a loaded schedule with four individual events and all the free relays including the mixed free relays

NathenDrake
Reply to  choosy
1 month ago

I know. Sadly only Milak or Németh can rest tomorrow in morning session. And naturally Sós wants Milak to rest.

Kristof Milak fan page twitter
Reply to  choosy
1 month ago

I didn’t hear that he will go to the mixed free relays? Is there an article or something? He will just do 4×100 and 4×200 relays as far as I know.

NathenDrake
Reply to  Kristof Milak fan page twitter
1 month ago

With nearly 2 hours of rest after the 200 butterfly on Tuesday, I think he will try. With him and Nándor and Pádár on the women side they good even with it. I think Katinka would swim there as well. In the hunt for medal 100 in Olympics, World and European swimming championships.

olav
1 month ago

Switzerland to beat Israel i think in 4×200. Maybe the biggest dark horse. They went 7.06 last year in Tokyo for 6th place. Potential to go around 7.05 if they are on form.

Last edited 1 month ago by olav
Bolles alumn
1 month ago

Watch my boy Santo make a huge come back and be a member of the italian gold relay in Paris.

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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