7 Storylines To Watch At The 2021 European Swimming Championships


  • Swimming: Monday, May 17th – Sunday, May 23rd
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Prelims at 10:00 am local/Finals at 6:00 pm local
  • Event Site
  • Entry List

After getting postponed last year, the 2021 European Championships are finally set to take place this week in Budapest Hungary, and will begin on Monday, May 17th – Sunday, May 23rd. Considering the drought of high-level competition over the past year, this meet will serve as an exciting chance for swimmers to get some fast racing in, ahead of the upcoming 2021 Olympic Games.

1. The Coveted Sub-58 Women’s 100 Backstroke

We have been talking for months about how stacked the women’s backstroke field will be at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Headlined by the likes of world record holder Regan Smith and burgeoning Australian backstroker Kaylee McKeown who recently posted a 57.93 to get within Smith’s 57.57 world record from 2019, it will be a tough race to reach the podium. The field, however, will also include a number of European entrants who will be vying just as much for a spot on the podium.

So far this season 7 women have been under 59 seconds in the event and 2 of those women will be present at Euros in the form of Kathleen Dawson and Kira Toussaint. At Britain’s recent Olympic Trials, Dawson rocketed to a 58.24 PB which currently ranks her at #2 in the world, second only to McKeown. Toussaint on the other hand was a 58.65 at the 2021 Eindhoven Qualification meet which makes her the 6th fastest.

2020-2021 LCM Women 100 Back

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Both Dawson and Toussaint have officially qualified to swim at the Olympics this summer for their respective nations of Great Britain and the Netherlands. Going in as top 2 seeds in the 100 back at Euros, Dawson and Toussaint will likely use the matchup as a shot to push each other towards that coveted 58.00-second barrier.

While only Dawson and Toussaint have been under 59 this season, third seed Margherita Panziera from Italy has also been under the mark, holding a 58.92 from back in 2019. This season her PB is a 59.75 from Italian Olympic Trials. Adding to the action, Anastasiya Shkurdai and Maria Kameneva will enter with their respective 59.08 for 4th and 59.10 for 5th while Cassie Wild and Anastasia Fesikova are tied for 6th with a 59.51

2. Adam Peaty Has Competition?

Adam Peaty has never raced against someone in the 100 breaststroke with an entry time faster than a 58. That fact will no longer be the case after 2021 European Championships now that Dutchman Arno Kamminga has established a new best time of 57.90, shaving more than half a second off his former PB and national record of 58.42.

Kamminga did so during the 2021 Dutch National Team Time Trial, making him the second-fastest performer behind Peaty. It also gave him the 15th fastest performance in history, interrupting Peaty’s newly minted ‘Top 20 Swims of All Time’

With Peaty’s 56.88 sitting at number 1, Kamminga’s 57.90 at number 2, the 3rd and 4th fastest men in history will also be racing in Budapest this week in the form of Ilya Shymanovich of Belarus and Nicolo Martinenghi. Shymanovich has been as fast as 58.29 back in 2021 while Martininghi holds a 58.37 from this year’s Italian nationals. Behind them, Britain’s James Wilby has a 58.46 for 5th while Russia’s Anton Chupkov is a 58.83 for 6th.

That means that Peaty will be met by a field that features one sub-57 swimmer and 3 men who are within half a second of being the same. While he remains the favorite to win both this week at Euros and later this summer in Tokyo, it will be interesting to see how Peaty fares as the field slowly catches up.

3. Benedetta Pilato‘s First Senior International 100 Breaststroke

Benedetta Pilato has had an interesting rise to breaststroke stardom considering that her breakout seasons came at a time when COVID-19 canceled all major international meets for over a year. Without much high-level international racing to compete in, Pilato’s biggest spotlight came as she competed in the second season of the International Swimming League for Energy Standard. Throughout the season, Pilato was one of ENS’s stars and managed to break the Italian, European, and world junior record in the 50 breast (28.81), along with the Italian record in the 100 (1:03.55).

Pilato’s last major international meet was when she raced for Italy at the 2019 World Junior Swimming Championships and placed 6th in the 100 breast with a 1:08.21. Prior to that, Pilato won a silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in the 50 breaststroke with a 30.00 to Lilly King’s 29.84. While Pilato got some solid international racing opportunities in the summer of 2019, this meet will serve as her first-ever 100 breaststroke on the senior international stage.

She has improved significantly in the event since her 2019 1:08.21, powering to a 1:06.00 at the recent 2021 Italian Championships. That 1:06.00 made for a tie between herself and Arianna Castiglioni and the two are tied for 4th in the world this season.

2020-2021 LCM Women 100 Breast

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With that swim, Pilato qualified to compete in Tokyo alongside Italian record holder Martina Carraro. Slated to swim in Tokyo, Pilato will first be contesting the event at the 2021 European Championships. She is entered in the 100 alongside fellow Italian breaststrokers Carraro who is second seed (1:05.86) and Arianna Castiglioni who is tied with Pilato for third (1:06.00). Leading the pack in the event is Olympic medalist Yuliya Efimova of Russia (1:05.49). Along with the 100, Pilato is the fastest entrant in the 50 breaststroke with a 29.61 to Efimova’s 29.93.

While the field will be deeper in Tokyo upon the addition of King, Schoenmaker, and others, this meet for Pilato will be some important prep work for what’s sure to be an exciting Olympic debut.

4. The Battleground That Is The Men’s 200 Freestyle

The men’s 200 freestyle at the 2021 European Championships is likely going to be a bloodbath. Comparing the start lists for the event with the results from both the 2016 Olympic final and the 2019 World Championships final suggests that it could take a faster time to reach the podium at 2021 Euros than it did to win gold at either 2016 or 2019.

2021 Euros 2019 World Championships 2016 Olympics
Rank Name Entry Time Name Time Name Time
1 Danas Rapsys (LTU) 1:44.38 Sun Yang (CHN) 1:44.93 Sun Yang (CHN) 1:44.65
2 Duncan Scott (GBR) 1:44.47 Katsuhiro Matsumoto (JPN) 1:45.22 Chad le Clos (RSA) 1:45.20
3 Tom Dean (GBR) 1:44.58 Martin Malyutin (RUS) 1:45.63 Conor Dwyer (USA) 1:45.23
4 Martin Malyutin (RUS) 1:45.18 Duncan Scott (GBR) 1:45.63 James Guy (GBR) 1:45.49
5 Ivan Girev (RUS) 1:45.49 Filippo Megli (ITA) 1:45.67 Townley Haas (USA) 1:45.58
6 Filippo Megli (ITA) 1:45.67 Clyde Lewis (AUS) 1:45.78 Paul Biedermann (GER) 1:45.84
7 Matthew Richards (GBR) 1:45.77 Dominik Kozma (HUN) 1:45.90 Kosuke Hagino (JPN) 1:45.90
8 Aleksandr Shchegolev (RUS) 1:45.82 Danas Rapšys (LTU) DSQ Aleksandr Krasnykh (RUS) 1:45.91

Danas Rapsys from Lithuania and Great Britain’s duo of Duncan Scott and Thomas Dean lead the pack with a trio of 1:44s that are separated by only 0.20. Beyond the top 8 who are all entered with a time under 1:46, another 8 men are going into the meet with an entry time faster than 1:47, making for a positively cutthroat heat/semis/finals process.

The level of competition being brought to the event with definitely produce some incredible racing from this slate of men and makes us wonder if we’ll see the first sub-1:43 200 freestyle since Yannick Agnel‘s 1:43.14 at the 2012 Olympic Games.

5. Katinka Hosszu Returns

Another big name who is set to race at the 2021 European Championships is Hungarian Olympic gold medalist Katinka Hosszu. Hosszu is entered in her signature 200/400 IM double, along with a 200 butterfly. Hosszu has kept an impressive record in the IM events over the past few years, having won gold in both at the 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 World Championships, along with the 2016 Olympics. Hosszu also holds both long course world records in those events at a 2:06.12 from 2015 and a 4:26.36 from 2016.

Hosszu comes into Euros as the defending champion in the 200 IM, having won the event back in 2018, but is not the reigning champ in the 400 as she opted not to race it 3 years ago.

We haven’t much from Hosszu since the 2019 World Championships considering the general lack of racing that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering her lack of high-level racing this season so far, Hosszu hasn’t yet broken into the top 10 worldwide rankings in either event for 2020-2021. So far her fastest swims this year are a 2:11.47 and 4:38.85, respectively which are the 18th and 11th fastest swims in the world.

As she makes her return to the international racing scene and puts in some final prep ahead of Tokyo 2020, she’ll have a chance to get her name back in the IM ring.

Another interesting storyline to follow surrounding Hosszu’s appearance at Euros is the fact that she has a chance to become the woman with the most-ever podium finishes at a European Championships. The current record holder for that feat is Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom who won’t be racing at the meet due to her ongoing recovery from elbow surgery. Sjostrom has a total of 23 medals at European Champs, while Hosszu currently has 21 which ties her for second with now-retired Franziska van Almsick of Germany and Therese Alshammar of Sweden. Should Hosszu medal in all three of her event, she will become the most decorated female athlete in the history of the European Championships.

6. Britain’s Final Olympic Spots Up For Grabs

Great Britain filled out the majority of its 2021 Olympic roster at their recent Trials meet, naming a total of 28 swimmers to the team. While that’s nearly a full roster for the country, there are still a few events in which swimmers didn’t quite hit the standard they needed at Trials. 2021 Euros will serve as a last chance qualifying opportunity for swimmers to add their names to the roster in the following events:

British Olympic Spots Up For Grabs – Men

  • Men’s 400 freestyle (1 spot available)
  • Men’s 200 backstroke (1 spot available)
  • Men’s 200 butterfly (1 spot available)
  • Men’s 1500 freestyle (1 spot available)
  • Men’s 50 freestyle (1 spot available)
  • Men’s 100 backstroke (1 spot available)
  • Men’s 800 freestyle (2 spots available)

British Olympic Spots Up For Grabs – Women

  • Women’s 50 freestyle (2 spots available)
  • Women’s 200 freestyle (1 spot available)
  • Women’s 400 freestyle (2 spots available)
  • Women’s 800 freestyle (2 spots available)
  • Women’s 1500 freestyle (2 spots available)
  • Women’s 200 backstroke (1 spot available)
  • Women’s 400 IM (1 spot available)

7. Britain’s Final Olympic Spots Up For Grabs

While the British look to fill out their own Olympic roster, European Championships will be a chance for countries to secure their spot in Olympic relays this summer. With the top 12 teams from 2019 Worlds automatically qualifying for Tokyo in each relay, another 4 wildcard spots are up for grabs in all of the relays. The qualification period end of May 31, 2021, however, meaning that this meet is likely the last chance as declaring a top 4 finish.

We recently compiled a comprehensive outline of where each country vying for one of those wild card spots stands heading into European Championships this week. For a detailed account, read here.

Some of the most interesting relays to watch, however, will be the women’s 400 medley relay as 6/8 of the top-ranked countries that aren’t already qualified for Tokyo will all be racing at Euros. Poland, the Czech Republic, Finland, Belarus, Spain, and France all have a shot at getting one of 4 wildcard spots. Currently, Poland leads the rankings with its 4:02.63 while the Czech Republic has been a 4:03.02.

The men’s 400 medley is also bound to be exciting considering that 7 of the top 8 ranked teams are European. Italy leads the rankings of countries attempting to nab a wildcard spot with their 3:32.66 and they are followed by Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Turkey, Switzerland, and Croatia who will all need to bring their A-game should they wish to race the event in Tokyo.

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1 year ago

Well I’m guessing Kamminga wont be rested for this meet either so the roughly 1 second difference between him and Peaty should come out anyway.

1 year ago

These Championships will tell us very little. It’s odd having them just two months before the Olympics. This might be considered old-fashioned but I would like to see a World Championships once every four years. This would give it the now or never quality and it would bring the prestige factor closer to the Olympics. Presently too many top class swimmers feel they can skip the WC’s, particularly in the year after the Olympics. Then we could have European/Pan Pacific Championships every two years ie. in the years where there are no Olympics or WC’s.

1 year ago

Kaylee went 57.63. The 57.3 was last year.

Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

That 57.3 was supposed to be 57.93!

1 year ago

I wanna see Efimova VS Jefimova!

Reply to  moddiddle
1 year ago

It’s the same Russian last name. The first vowel sounds like in “yellow”. You can see this name written different ways. To pronounce it accurately in English use Yefemova with the stress on the second syllable.

1 year ago

I could be completely wrong, but I assume Milak could be partially rested because he needs to determine if it’ll be worth swimming the 400 free and (more importantly) 200free at the Olympics.

1 year ago

Headline for point 7 is repeat of point 6

1 year ago

The reporter is mistaken about 2:01.12 world record held by Hosszu in W200IM.
Also when did Hosszu swim 4:38.85 last time?
I appreciate the attempt to make swimswam’s readers excited about this championships but not at the expense of accuracy, please.

Reply to  Yozhik
1 year ago

The 200 IM time is obviously a typo it should be 2:06.12. Hosszu swam the 4:38.85 in April at the Stockholm Open.

Reply to  Goag
1 year ago


1 year ago

So many interesting themes in these pre-Olympics Euros that I could arrive at 20 with ease..Some random stories beyond those in the article (keep an eye also on Martinenghi in the 50/100 br.): 1) Kolesnikov will confirm his new dimension in the 100 free? 2) Someone (Romanchuck? Christiansen?) will be capable to make the 800-1500 double difficult for the almost unstoppable Paltrinieri seen in the OW races? 3) 100 fly with (perhaps) Minakov vs Milak for the win but also a bunch of young swimmers (Miladinov, Ponti, Kos, Frankel) born in this millenium, to confirm the new dimension of this distance 4) Some intriguing inner battles in the heats (Kolesnikov-Minakov-Grinev in the 100 free, Pilato-Carraro-Castiglioni in the 100 br., Malyutin-Girev-Shchegolev… Read more »

Reply to  nuotofan
1 year ago

Will Pellegrini race at this meet?

Reply to  Yozhik
1 year ago

Yeah, she’s top seed by about 2 seconds in the 200 freestyle

Reply to  maybe?
1 year ago

Pellegrini, Bonnet and Anderson may have an interesting race of ambitions. They are ranked currently next to each other within 0.13sec interval.

Reply to  nuotofan
1 year ago

Can’t wait to see Popovici, I’m anticipating big things after a few unrested PBs this spring.