European Championships Preview – Men’s Backstroke

50 backstroke

French star Camille Lacourt has posted the top ranked time of 24.37. Lacourt won the 50 backstroke at the 2013 World Championships, finished second at the 2011 World Championships and took the title at the 2010 European Championships. He would be the overwhelming favourite coming into Berlin, but will not be present due to a hip injury.

That leaves the field wide open and will give Lacourt’s French teammate Jeremy Stravius a greater likelihood of taking home the gold. Stravius finished second to Lacourt and in a tie with American Matt Grevers at the World Championships. He has the fastest lifetime best in the field having recorded a 24.45 in 2013.

Stravius has a season’s best of 24.80 which ranks him third heading into Berlin.

Russian Vlad Morozov had a strong 2013 winning the 50 and 100 freestyle and taking the silver in the 50 backstroke at the Universiade in Kazan. He also collected a silver in the 50 freestyle at the World Championships.

Morozov comes in with a season and lifetime best time of 24.52, which is the fastest time recorded in 2014 of any swimmer in the field.

Italian Niccolo Bonacchi will have a shot at a medal. The 20 year old comes into the competition with a season and lifetime best of 24.65.

With only two spots in the final available for each country Russians Nikita Ulyanov and Sergey Fesikov will most likely be battling for that final spot. Although it is not out of the question that the two of them could keep Morozov from competing for a medal. Ulyanov has posted a season and lifetime best of 24.86 improving over a half second in the last year. Fesikov comes into Berlin with a season and lifetime best of 24.88.

Isrealians Guy Banrea and Jonatan Kopelev finished seventh and eighth at the 2013 World Championships. Both men come in with lifetime bests of 24.73. Barnea collected the bronze in the event at both the 2010 and 2012 European Championships while Kopelev took gold at the 2012 championships.

Italian Stefano Pizzamiglio collected the bronze at the Universiade in Kazan, finishing just behind Morozov. He comes in with a season’s best of 25.04 and a lifetime best of 24.92.

My top six:

  1. Jeremy Stravius (FRA) – 24.45 (2013)
  2. Vlad Morozov (RUS) – 24.52 (2014)
  3. Guy Barnea (ISR) – 24.73 (2013)
  4. Jonatan Kopelev (ISR) – 24.73 (2012)
  5. Niccolo Bonacchi (ITA) – 24.65 (2014)
  6. Nikita Ulyanov (RUS) – 24.86

100 backstroke

Chris Walker-Hebborn of Great Britain will be coming into Berlin with a boatload of confidence after taking the gold at the Commonwealth Games, posting a lifetime best of 53.12. His victory in Glasgow was his first taste of success on the international stage. Walker-Hebborn did compete in this event at the World Championships in Barcelona, but missed out on the final after posting a 53.96 in the semis.

Liam Tancock, Camille Lacourt and Arkady Vyatchanin have posted the next three fastest times, but none of the three will be competing in Berlin.

Jeremy Stravius will be the second ranked competitor at the championships having recorded a 53.86. He comes into the event with the fastest lifetime best of 52.76 which he posted in 2011, tying Lacourt for gold at the World Championships. Since that point the fastest time he has posted is a 53.09 in 2013.

Italians Christopher Ciccarese and Niccolo Bonacchi have the put up next two fastest times. Ciccarese posted a season and lifetime best of 53.94 while Niccolo Bonacchi did the same recording a 53.98.

17 year old Apostolos Christou of Greece is another swimmer who would have a shot at a medal, but has decided to bypass the championships and compete at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing instead.

Nikita Ulyanov comes into Berlin having posted a season and lifetime best of 54.08.

Although Bastiaan Lijesen of the Netherlands has posted an unimpressive season’s best of 54.78 in the event expect his to have a shot at standing on the medal podium. Ljiesen finished sixth at the 2013 World Championships and has a lifetime best of 53.86.

My top six:

  1. Jeremy Stravius (FRA) – 52.76 (2011)
  2. Chris Walker-Hebborn (GBR) – 53.12 (2014)
  3. Bastiaan Lijesen (NED) – 53.86 (2012)
  4. Niccolo Bonacchi (ITA) – 53.98 (2014)
  5. Christopher Ciccarese (ITA) – 53.94 (2014)
  6. Nikita Ulyanov (RUS) – 54.08 (2014)

200 backstroke

Arkady Vyatchanin has posted the season’s fastest time of 1:55.30, but as was mentioned in the preview of the 100 backstroke Vyatchanin will not be competing in Berlin.

2013 World Championships finalist Peter Bernek of Hungary will have the top ranked time at the championships having posted a 1:56.42. Bernek finished eighth in Barcelona and has a lifetime best of 1:55.88, which he recorded en route to winning silver at the 2012 European Championships.

Radoslaw Kawecki of Poland has the next fastest time of 1:56.45. Kawecki finished second to American Ryan Lochte in Barcelona finishing in a lifetime best time of 1:54.24. The 22 year old Kawecki also took gold at the 2012 European Championships and finished fourth at the Olympics in London.

Russian Andrey Shabasov has the third ranked time coming into Berlin. The 20 year old Shabasov has made incredible improvements over the last year, going from a 2:01.10 in 2013 to a 1:56.97 heading into the championships.

Christopher Ciccarese has posted a season and lifetime best of 1:57.21.

Germans Jan-Philip Glania and Christian Diener will be competing for a spot on the medal podium on home soil. Glania comes into the event with a season and lifetime best of 1:57.40 while Diener also comes in with a season and lifetime best of 1:57.70.

My top six:

  1. Radoslaw Kawecki (POL) – 1:54.24 (2013)
  2. Peter Bernek (HUN) – 1:55.88 (2012)
  3. Andrey Shabasov (RUS) – 1:56.97 (2014)
  4. Jan-Philip Glania (GER) – 1:57.40 (2014)
  5. Christopher Ciccarese (ITA) – 1:57.21 (2014)
  6. Christian Diener (GER) – 1:57.70 (2014)



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bobo gigi

If is back is back in shape, Stravius should win the 50 back and the 100 back.

bobo gigi

If his back is back in shape, Stravius should easily win the 50 back and the 100 back.
Too bad he has never tried seriously the 200 back. He probably don’t like that event.
I don’t know both Italians who have swum under 54 this year.


Stravius’ backstroke looks smooth and controlled with low frequency. Normally 200m back is swum in that way so maybe Stravius should try it out.

bobo gigi

He probably DOESN’T like that event.
It was the same with Laure Manaudou.
She was great in the 100 back and had much endurance so the 200 back would have been a perfect event for her.
Unfortunately, she hated that event.


Luca Mencarini has swam 1:57:72 in the 200 back, but he is only 18, so on paper he has a lot of room for improvement.

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Jeff Grace

Jeff is a 500 hour registered yoga teacher who holds diplomas in Coaching (Douglas College) and High Performance Coaching (National Coaching Institute - Calgary). He has a background of over 20 years in the coaching profession, where he has used a unique and proven teaching methodology to help many achieve their …

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