Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
Last weekend’s European Games brought together some of Europe’s top junior swimmers for a look at the future of international swimming.
It’s no secret that Russia dominated the Games, winning over half the meet’s gold medals.
But an underrated part of that accomplishment is how suffocating Russia was in the relay races. And the single biggest contributor to those relay squads was young freestyler Arina Openysheva.
Russia won 7 of the meet’s 8 relay events, and Openysheva was a part of five of those wins.
She was the driving force behind a sweep of the women’s relays. In the 4×100 free relay, she led off in a field-best 55.06, staking her team to a big lead they’d never surrender. In the 4×200 free relay, she entered the water in third place, but had the field in her pocket by the 50-turn. Her split of 1:58.04 launched the team into another lead it would hold through the conclusion of the race.
In the 4×100 medley, Russia was all but untouchable, stringing together four individual gold medalists, including Openysheva on the end. The 16-year-old anchored in a crushing 54.58, sealing the deal on yet another win.
Then, too, Openysheva was a huge part in Russia winning both mixed-gender relays by wide margins. She anchored the 4×100 free relay, showing remarkable consistency with a 54.92 split to ice the win.
And her final relay gold came in the mixed 4×100 medley, where the youngster was once again in the high-pressure anchor slot. A 55.22 split coming off an individual 200 free earlier in the session, and Openysheva had once again touched first for the Russians.
The fact that a 16-year-old kid could show up so well multiple times for the Russians in high-stakes relay events is a great sign for Russian swimming down the road. And for Openysheva individually, her 7 gold medals and 1 silver at the first-ever European Games will hold up as the benchmark for any future swimmer hoping to etch their names with the most decorated swimmers in the history of the meet.
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