Day 2 of the 2012 European Junior Championships rolled on Thursday in Antwerp, Belgium, and after the men’s 400 freestylers stole the show on day one, it was the women’s 400 freestylers who earned top billing on day two. The girls’ races at this meet are for 15-16 year olds, and the boys’ races are for 17-18’s.
Carli Diletta from Italy won the women’s 15-16 400 freestyle in a blazing 4:09.36. That moves her into the world’s top-40 in 2012, and is a best-time for her. Much like we saw from her countrymate Gabrielle Detti in the men’s 400, she very-nearly negative split this 400 free final, taking the race out in 2:04.55, and back in 2:04.8. That’s not something that she typically does in this event, but this quality of swimming big back-halfs is becoming somewhat of a trademark for the Italians, a trend perhaps modeled after their country’s most visible swimming star: Federica Pellegrini.
In fact, this swim by Diletta breaks Pellegrini’s 16 & under National Age Record in the race.
Russia’s Ksenia Yuskova took silver in 4:12.28, and France’s Camille Gheorghiu was 3rd in 4:12.64.
As for the aforementioned Detti, he took his second gold medal by winning the men’s 17-18 1500 free in 15:11.41. Though that only ranks him 4th in his country in 2012, that’s 4th in an Italian distance freestyle group that is deeper than any in the world right now except for the Americans.
Despite a pair of great swims from the Italians, it was the Russians who took over the medal stand on Thursday. In total, they won 5 gold medals in 8 events on the day, including Julia Larina, who won her second event of the meet with a 2:11.07 in the women’s 15-16 200 backstroke.
But the star was their 15-16 sprint freestyler Mariya Baklakova. She first took a win in the individual 100 free in 55.08, which just missed the Championship Record by .06, and came back at the end of the session with a 55.27 to lead off the Russians 400 free relay, which did in fact break the Championship Record in 3:43.12. That actually took 1.5 seconds off of the old record set by the great young French group last year in Serbia. With three 55’s and a 56, this relay would almost be competitive with the anemic Russian senior 400 free relay.
What’s more, Baklakova (who will be on the Russian Olympic Team in relay duty as well) crushes her own National Junior Record in the 100 free, set in April, by nearly a second. There are few things for the Russian women’s group, that has a phenomenal backstroker and butterflier, than to see their young freestyle group finally blossoming. She’s also a great 200 freestyler, so expect her to crack two minutes in that race easily later in this meet.
Russia’s other two victories came in the men’s 200 breaststroke, where Marat Amaltdinov won the boys’ 17-18 200 breaststroke in 2:13.15, and Andrei Shabasov won the boys’ 100 back in 55.24. A great finish from Shabasov ran down a pair of Italians: Fabio Laugeni (55.31) and Niccolo Bonacchi (55.63).
The other winner on day two was Hungary’s Liliana Szilagyi in 2:10.53. That improves upon her silver-medal winning performance from last year’s meet, and re-establishes Hungary’s historic dominance in this event in Europe. They have won the last two senior European Championships in this race, but at the junior level this is their first title since 2007.
After two days, Russia has vaulted itself to the top of the medal table. The Russians women have had a few lean years at the junior ranks, but are rebuilding their depth their from the bottom-up.