2022 European Championships: Men’s Distance Freestyle Preview


  • Thursday, August 11 – Wednesday, August 17, 2022 (pool swimming)
  • Rome, Italy
  • Foro Italico Sports Complex
  • LCM (50m)
  • Meet Central

Men’s distance swimming is one of Europe’s strongest disciplines. For years, the 800 and 1500 free have been dominated by Florian Wellbrock, Gregorio Paltrinieri, and Mykhailo Romanchuk, who are arguably three of the best distance swimmers in the world (alongside American Bobby Finke). Add on Wellbrock’s breakout German teammate Lukas Märtens and Italian junior Lorenzo Galossi and you’ve got an incredibly stacked field.

The competitors in the 400 are equally as strong. Time-wise, Martens leads the pack with his mind-boggling 3:41.60 from this April, but behind him are stars like Galossi, Gabriele Detti, Felix Auboeck, Marco De Tullio, and David Popovici who are also challenging for the continental crown.

Men’s 400 Free:

  • World Record: 3:40.07 — Paul Biedermann, Germany (2009)
  • European Record: 3:40.07 — Paul Biedermann, Germany (2009)
  • European Championships Record: 3:44.01 — Gabriele Detti, Italy (2016)
  • 2020 European Champion: Martin Malyutin, Russia — 3:44.18

Flash back to the Stockholm Open this April, when German Lukas Märtens blew our minds away by dropping a 3:41.60 400 free in-season. At that point, his time was the fastest time recorded in the event since 2017, and immediately he vaulted to the “favorite” position headed into the World Championships. And while he was overtaken by Elijah Winnington in Budapest, his Worlds time of 3:42.85 is still over half a second clear of any other European this year. This leads us to think: what does he have in store for Europeans, and is he going to be looking for redemption after being beaten at Worlds?

Keep in mind that the 400 free is on the very last day of this meet while it fell on day one of Worlds. Märtens took on an extremely heavy schedule in Budapest, and while he was well off his best times in the 200 and 800 free, he finished off on the final day of the meet with a near-PB in the 1500 free. This shows that he’s capable of taking on a large load, and assuming that he swims the same events at Europeans, the scheduling shouldn’t be that big of a problem for him.

If Märtens doesn’t win, the pick for gold should go to Austria’s Felix Auboeck, who has been on an unlucky streak in his past international meets. First, at last year’s European Championships, he finished second to Russia’s Martin Malyutin by just 0.45 seconds. Then, at the Tokyo Olympics, he went a best time, but was shut off the podium and finished fourth. A year later, the same fate hit him at Worlds where he broke 3:44 for the first time, swimming a 3:43.83 in prelims and then 3:43.58 in finals. Although his finals time would have been good enough to take silver at the Olympics, the Worlds final just happened to be significantly faster, and once again he finished in that dreaded fourth place position. He’s the second-fastest European in the World this year, and looks to break his long course curse with a European Championship.

Then there’s the Italian quartet of Marco De Tullio, Gabriele Detti, Lorenzo Galossi, and Matteo Ciampi, who have all been 3:46-point or faster this year. And while a country can have up to four swimmers in an event, only two are allowed to advance out of prelims—meaning that we are going to see some of Europe’s top 400 freestylers get left out of finals because of country limits.

Out of the four swimmers, Galossi has garnered the most attention, largely due to how fast he is as just sixteen. He went 3:45.93 at April’s Italian Spring Championships, which is makes him the fifth-fastest European swimmer this year. Although he couldn’t replicate that time at Worlds and missed finals, more international meet experience under his belt as well as a home crowd should work in his favor.  De Tullio, Galossi’s training partner, also set his best time of 3:44.14 at the Italian Spring Championships, and went on to match that time at Worlds and finish sixth.

Detti and Ciampi both set their season-bests at the Italian Summer Championships this July. The fact that neither of them qualified for Worlds in the 400 free but are still contenders at Europeans just goes to show how deep this event is amongst the Italians. Detti, the 2016 European Champion and national record holder, clocked a 3;44.35 in July, which was his fastest time since August 2020. His best time and Italian record stands at 3:43.29 from the 2019 World Championships. He’s our pick for bronze behind Auboeck and Martens because of his veteran experience and the fact that he’s been consistently in that 3:43-3:44 range since 2016. Ciampi went 3:46.25 at summer Championships, which was a drop of over a second from his previous best time of 3:47.41 from December 2019. However, he’s going to have to be a lot faster in order to place top 2 amongst his countrymen.

The biggest “dark horse” in this race is Romania’s David Popovici, the 100 and 200 free world champion that’s set to experiment with the 400 free . His best time is only a 3:48.18, but based on the fact that he swam the recently fastest 200 free in ten years, he should be able to have a decent 400 free even if it’s largely propelled by a strong front half.

Another two men to look out for are Germany’s Florian Wellbrock and Switzerland’s Antonio Djakovic, who hold season-best times of 3:46.14 and 3;46.16 respectivley. Wellbrock is going to be more of a conversation in the 800 and 1500 free, but for Djakovic, mid-distance is his bread and butter. The Swiss swimmer finished 10th at Worlds in a time of 3:46.90, but went on to clock his 3:46.14 at the Golden Bear Swim meet, which happened right after Worlds (June 25th to June 26th). His ability to swim fast quite literally straight after the biggest competition of the year bodes well come time for Europeans.

Don’t forget about Lithuania’s Danas Raspys, who was last year’s European bronze medalist. He comes in with a best time of 3:43.36, but was well off that time this year and finished 18th at Worlds in 3:50.83. A similar fate hit Germany’s Henning Muehlleitner, who has been as fast as 3:43.67 but was 11th at Worlds, clocking a 3:46.17.

A big name missing from this meet is defending champion Malyutin, who will not be competing at Euros due to Russia’s ban from international competition.

SwimSwam’s Predictions:

Ranking Swimmer Country Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Lukas Martens Germany 3:41.60 3:41.60
2 Felix Auboeck Austria 3:43.58 3:43.58
3 Gabriele Detti Italy 3:43.29 3:44.35
4 David Popovici Romania 3:48.18 3:48.18
5 Marco De Tullio Italy 3:44.14 3:44.14

Men’s 800 Free:

  • World Record: 7:32.12 — Zhang Lin, China (2009)
  • European Record: 7:39.27 — Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy (2019)
  • European Championships Record: 7:42.33 — Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy (2016)
  • 2020 European Champion: Mkyhailo Romanchuk, Ukraine — 7:42.61

The men’s 800 free is going to be headlined by three big front runners: Florian Wellbrock, Gregorio Paltrinieri, and Mkyhailo Romanchuk. The biggest question mark is Wellbrock, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 following the World Championships and said that he wasn’t sure if he would swim all the distance events at Euros. He finished second at Worlds in a time of 7:39.63, which is the fastest time in Europe this year. However, athletes who have had COVID-19 this year don’t have the greatest track history of performing at their best right afterwards, so don’t expect Wellbrock to match his Worlds time at Europeans.

Romanchuk is the defending European champion and almost became a World Champion before getting run down by Bobby Finke in the last 50 meters of his race. However, he still set a best time of 7:40.05 at Worlds and sits behind Wellbrock as the second-fastest European this year. And while Romanchuk is in the running to defend his title, our pick to win this race is European record holder Paltrinieri. He was knocked off the podium in Budapest, finishing fourth in a time of 7:41.19, but he has the hot hand because of his dominant showing in the 1500 free. Expect the 800 free to be a lot closer than the 1500, but it’s hard not to give Paltrinieri the edge after seeing how he closed off World Championships.

If there’s anyone that’s gonna be disrupting the “big three”, it’s going to be Lukas Märtens. He briefly held the 800 free German record with his best time of 7:41.63, but it was also his worst event at Worlds by far. He added nearly fifteen seconds, and was far from reaching finals with a fifteenth-place finish. However, he did relatively well in his other events (second in the 400 free, seventh in the 200 free, fourth in the 1500 free), so the 800 can be considered a fluke. In fact, we predict him to land on the podium because of the possibility that Wellbrock could be off-form due to covid.

The rest of the Europeans are all at least four seconds behind Wellbrock, Paltrinieri, Romanchuk, and Märtens. But one man that could join them in the top five is Lorenzo Galossi, who dropped over three seconds at Italian Summer Nationals and went 7:46.28, negative splitting the race 3:53.11/3:52.81. He’s been incredible racing at home this year, so swimming in a Rome pool plus his young age gives him a ceiling that’s higher than any other swimmer in this race. Another Italian in contention is Gabriele Detti, who comes in with a season-best time of 7:46.24 from the World Championships. Him and Galossi are going to have to battle it out in prelims, as only the fastest two Italians will get to qualify for finals.

Other swimmers who could challenge for the top five include Felix Auboeck and Sven Schwarz. Schwarz went 7:46.65 at the Berlin Open, but couldn’t go to Worlds because Wellbrock and Martens were faster than him. The two-per country rule could make it difficult for him to progress out of prelims, but if either of his German teammates are “off” this meet, he could get into the final with his time from earlier this year.

Because of a scheduling conflict with the 200 free, Auboeck didn’t swim the 800 at Worlds. The two events don’t overlap at Europeans, giving him an opportunity to both races. He set a best time of 7:45.32 at this year’s Stockholm Open, and is the fifth-fastest European in the world for 2022.

SwimSwam’s Predictions:

Ranking Swimmer Country Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Gregorio Paltrinieri Italy 7:39.27 7:41.19
2 Mykhalio Romanchuk Ukraine 7:40.05 7:40.05
3 Lukas Martens Germany 7:41.63 7:41.63
4 Florian Wellbrock Germany 7:39.63 7:39.63
5 Lorenzo Galossi Italy 7:46.28 7:46.28

Men’s 1500 Free:

  • World Record: 14:31.02 — Sun Yang, China (2011)
  • European Record: 14:32.80 — Gregorio Paltrinieri (2022)
  • European Championships Record: 14:34.04 — Gregorio Paltrinieri (2016)
  • 2020 European Champion: Mkyhailo Romanchuk, Ukraine — 14:39.89

Out of all the men’s distance races, the 1500 free will be the easiest to pick. Why? Because based on what we’ve seen this year, it’s going to be Gregorio Paltrinieri versus the world record line. He was ahead of world record pace for the majority of his race at World Championships, but he let it escape him in the final lap (largely because Sun Yang closed his World Record in 25.68 seconds). However, he still swam the second-fastest time ever (14:32.80), and is a whole four seconds faster than any other European this year.

The question coming into Europeans is: will Paltrinieri be propelled by the energy of a home crowd and break the World Record? It’s certainly possible, but he’s going to have to open his race a few seconds faster than Budapest, since he not known to have great finishing speed.

In contention for the minor medals will be the usual Florian Wellbrock, Lukas Märtens, and Mykhailo Romanchuk. Wellbrock has the second-fastest European time in the World this year at 14:36.94, but as explained in the 800 free preview, he’s likely not going to be at his best due to COVID-19. Romanchuk, the defending European Champion, missed the podium at Worlds but still went a respectable season-best time of 14:40.98. He’s been as fast as 14:36.88 before (a time he set in 2018), and if he can dip under 14:40 range again, he can probably win a medal.

Märtens went a best time of 14:40.28 in April, and went on to go 14:40.89 and finish fourth at Worlds. It’s going to be harder for him to get past Wellbrock and medal in the 1500 than the 800, considering that Wellbrock is better at longer events, but he’s a lock for fourth considering that he’s faster than the rest of Europe (aside from Wellbrock, Romanchuk, and Paltrinieri) by ten seconds).

Germany’s Oliver Klemet is in the same situation as Sven Schwarz, being shut out of Worlds due to Wellbrock and Märtens. He swam a time of 14:50.43 this March, and would have been a strong pick to finish top five if it wasn’t for the two-per country final rule. Another contender is France’s Damien Joly, who recently went 14:53.47 and qualified for the World Championships final. He has been as fast as 14:48.90, a time he set at the 2016 Olympic Games.

SwimSwam’s Predictions:

Ranking Swimmer Country Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Gregorio Paltrinieri Italy 14:32.80 14:32.80
2 Mkyhalio Romanchuk Ukraine 14:36.88 14:40.98
3 Florian Wellbrock Germany 14:36.18 14:36.94
4 Lukas Martens Germany 14:40.28 14:40.28
5 Damien Joly France 14:48.90 14:53.47

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ferrari owner
9 months ago

keen to see detti in the 400. had some drops from the world trials, then euro trials, hope he can drop a bit more at euros and get his speeds from 2019. hope Palt has another level in the 1500 but will the fact it is quite close to worlds be an issue? would be pretty unreal if we see another low 1430s from him in such a short time frame. that would have to make him best ever (if you don’t already think he is), as I don’t think even the greats like hacket and yang could push out low 1430s in such a close time range to each other. Pretty keen for this meet

9 months ago

Märtens also had COVID-19 after Budapest. He won’t swim the 1500m.
Wellbrock will almost certainly skip the 400m and 800m. 1500m is at least in the discussion, but also questionable due to COVID.

Klemet will swim the 1500m instead (if I’m not mistaken he also had COVID in June though) and Schwarz will swim the 800m.

Reply to  Clutch
9 months ago

Märtens is on the startlist for all freestyle events from 200 through 1500 and Wellbrock is on the 800/1500 double, are the released startlists wrong?

Reply to  Davide
9 months ago

Probably just too short notice? Or they want to keep the option open?

Anyway Märtens and Wellbrock said in Interviews they won’t swim the 1500 respective 800. So I think it’s a sure thing.

I actually like it. Schwarz and Klemet are both great youngsters and they don’t too often get the chance.

Reply to  Clutch
9 months ago

Oh well, it’s kinda a pity but I guess it was to be expected.
In Märtens case, even without COVID, I think he should drop either the 200 or the 1500 permanently, at worlds he would have fared so much better if he wasn’t so tired ( in the 800 in particular)

Reply to  Davide
9 months ago

And Märtens is on the startlist for the 200 back, too!

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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