The Russian swimming program is having a big week, though some big momentum early on day 2 of the 2013 European Junior Championships in Poznan, Poland was halted in its tracks by a stunning disqualification.
The Russians began the session by winning four out of the first five events. That began with a gold in the boys’ 100 backstroke from Grigory Tarasevich, who after breaking Laszlo Cseh’s Meet Record with a 54.6 in the semi-finals came up just shy of clearing the old mark for a second time in finals. Tasevich’s winning time was 55.08, with good work done on the front-half to pull away from Lithuanian silver-medalist Danas Rapsys in 55.44.
Tarasevich twice broke Andrew Schabas’ Russian Junior National Record that was a 55.24 from last May.
Italian Simone Sabbioni rounded out that podium in 55.73.
In the next race, one of the future stars of German swimming 16-year old Leonie Beck won the women’s 400 free in 4:12.87, which just misses her own personal best time. Nikoletta Kiss from Hungary took 2nd in 4:13.43, and a second-straight bronze went to Italy from 15-year old Linda Caponi in 4:13.86.
Then it was back to the Russians, who rattled-off three straight victories.
First it was Anastasia Guzhenkova in the women’s 200 fly with a 2:11.24, chasing down Britain’s 16-year old Emma Day. Day, putting up a 2:12.14, gave the UK their 2nd silver, and 4th medal overall, at this meet, though they’re still a long way from matching the 19 medals they won in 2012. Hungary’s Dalma Sebestyen was 3rd in 2:12.75.
The 3rd Russian victory on the day went to Maria Baklakova in the 100 free with a 54.78 that won by a full second: a huge margin in a sprint race. She also broke the Meet Record set by Germany’s Silke Lippok (55.02) at this meet in 2009, where Lippok was the star. With that swim, she becomes the first Russian Junior under 55 seconds (Russia defines juniors as 16-and-under in women’s swimming) and makes her the 2nd-fastest Russian in this event this year. The country’s top three sprinters are all 22-or-younger, which should help revive some free relays that have been pretty dismal for a long time.
Spain’s Fatima Gallardo was 2nd in 55.76, and Luxembourg’s Julie-Marie Meynen was 3rd in 55.92. Those times rank Gallardo 2nd and Meynen first in their countries, respectively, overall rankings in 2013. Great Britain’s Harriet Cooper tied for 6th in 56.34.
In the men’s 200 breaststroke, the Russians took 1st and 2nd, with Mikhail Dorinov winning in 2:12.27 and his teammate Alexander Palatov taking 2nd in 2:12.69. Palatov got off to a slow start, but recovered well in the second 50 to get back in the race. Germany’s Yannick Lindberg took 3rd in 2:13.92, and looks like the next part of their strong breaststroke tradition of recent years.
But then, the air was sucked out of the Russian team in the women’s 200 backstroke. There was no bigger favorite in this meet (yes, including the Olympic champion Meilutyte), than Russia’s Daria Ustinova. She might be the fastest 14-year old backstroker we’ve ever seen (her times are better than Missy Franklin’s at the same age, and faster than Egerszegi was when she won the 200 back gold medal in 1988 at the same age).
A disqualification, however, for reasons that we’ve been unable to track down, took what should have been at least a four-second win and left no result.
The Germans were the big beneficiaries of that DQ, with Sonnele Oeztuerk moving up to take the win in 2:13.90, and her teammate Laura Riedemann jumping onto the podium for bronze in 2:14.61. In between was Lithuania’s Ugne Mazutaityte, for that country’s 2nd silver of the night. That already surpasses the single bronze they won in 2012.
The Russians should continue to swim very well as this meet goes on, and they had a lot of great semi-final swims as well, but they’ll have left one on the blocks with that DQ.
The other individual winner on the day was Jan Micka of the Czech Republic in the men’s 1500 free with a 15:13.51. He won a battle with Poland’s Pawel Furtek, who led at 1400 meters but couldn’t hold on. The lead changed at least a dozen times in this swim, and the two were never separated by more than half-a-meter.
Great Britain’s Caeleb Hughes took bronze in 15:19.63.
And finally, as the Europeans begin to experiment more-and-more with mixed relay ahead of their addition to the senior European Championships, the Russians, as expected, won a no-doubter in the 400 free relay with a 3:29.10 that is, by default the Championship Record. Even if that weren’t the first time for the event, this would’ve surely been a record anyway; the winning foursome wen Sedov in 49.50, Rozaliya Nasretdoinova in 55.38, Ivan Kuzmenko in 50.03, and Baklakova in an impressive 54.19 anchor with clean-water all around.
The strategy of the countries on order was pretty well divided, but all 10 finalists decided to lead off with a boy. Great Britain took 2nd in the relay in 3:33.25, including a 40.44 from Mark Szaranek on the third leg, and Germany was 3rd in 3:34.23.
- The Netherlands’ Kyle Stolk topped the men’s 100 free prelims in 50.18, but Magnus Westermann from Denmark and Jan Holub from Poland were both within .05 of him. Sebastian Szvzepanski and Evgeny Sedov also made the top-5 in 50.3’s, though Sedov continue to looks a bit off-of-his-best at this meet.
- The Ukraine’s Vitkoria Solntseva, winner already of the 50 breaststroke, took the top seed in the 200 in 2:27.33. She’s only 15-years old, and looks ready for her big showdown with Lithuanian 100 breaststroke Olympic Champion Ruta Meilutyte in that race on Sunday. The 2nd seed is Italy’s Silvia Guerra in 2:29.91.
- Russia’s Semen Makovich won the men’s 200 IM in 1:59.91, breaking a five-year old Championship Record held by Britain’s Xavier Mohammed in 2:00.73. Makovich will graduate to at least the WUG’s level by 2015, though the Russians will hope even better that he will be a European and World Championship contender in the next two years, and he would’ve taken the #2 seed at the World University Games meet in this same race. Britain’s Max Litchfield is the 2nd seed in 2:01.60, and the times drop off pretty well after that.
- Russia got another top seed (two in total on the day’s four semi-finals) with a 1:58.71 in the 200 fly from Alexander Kudashev. Spain’s Pedro Terres Illescas is 2nd in 1:59.54, and Hungary’s Benjamin Gratz is 3rd in 1:59.84. Britain’s Matthew Johnson also made the Final with a 2:00.75.
The Russians, as expected, have dominated the gold-medal tallies, though a deep German roster is racking up a ton of bronzes. Italy and Great Britain are down a bit from where we usually see them at this point, though the Brits rallied at the end of day 2.
Lithuania seems to be getting a boost in their swimming ranks from the Olympic successes of Ruta Meilutyte, as they’ve already doubled their total medal count from this meet last year. That’s without Meilutyte, who’s at this meet, having tallied one yet.