The 2015 LEN European Short Course Championships are fast-approaching, scheduled to take place at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel on December 2nd-6th. Over 50 countries are expected to attend the event in the city positioned 30 km north of Tel Aviv.
With the entry lists now available, we can see where major match-ups are taking place, as well as some out-of-the-pool implications of the current political climate.
Swimmers to Watch
Two athletes with monster schedules are Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Great Britain’s Hannah Miley. Both women are keen on attacking several events per day as their regular meet routine, as will be the case in Netanya. For the #IronLady Hosszu’s part, she is slated to swim the 50m/100m/200m/400m freestyles, the 50m/100m/200m backstrokes, 200m butterfly, as well as the 100m/200m IM/400m IM.
Miley will clash with Hosszu in the 400m freestyle, 200m butterfly, and all 3 IM distances, but will also be racing in the 50m backstroke, 50m breaststroke and 200m breaststrke events at the meet.
The Netherlands’ sprinting contingent will be attending in full force, complete with Femkee Heemskerk, Inge Dekker, and Ranomi Kromowidjojo. Also of note, is European Games stand-out, young Marrit Steenbergen, who is entered in the 50m/100m/200m freestyle races, in addition to the 100m IM.
Jeanette Ottesen is also scheduled to swim, looking to earn some sprint titles in the 50m/100m fresetyle and 50m/100m butterfly events. Speeding siren Sarah Sjostrom from Sweden will be ready to rip some swift times in the sprint freestyle and butterfly events, as will Turkey’s Viktoria Gunes, who is following up her recnet World Cup gold from Dubai with entry in all breaststroke races and the 100m/200m IM.
On the men’s side, breaststroking battles are sure to be had with key players Adam Peaty (GBR), Daniel Gyurta (HUN), Marco Koch (GER) and Anton Chupkov (RUS) all in the mix. Great Britain’s Andrew Willis is also listed as being in attendance, which would put him in back-to-back competitonns with this and the Duel in the Pool scheduled for December 11th and 12th.
The backstroking field appears strong as well, with Great Britain’s veteran Liam Tancock swimming along with newcomer and European Games multi-medalist Luke Greenbank.
After one of the most successful World Championships of his career, Hungarian Laszlo Cseh will be gunning for four titles in Israel: the 50 fly, 100 fly, 200 fly, and 200 IM. That means no 400 IM: an event in which he’s a seven-time European Champion in short course. In total, Cseh has 16 European Short Course titles, dating back to the 2003 event in Dublin where he won a single gold in that 400 IM.
Among the notable absentees from the race are two swimmers who would be favored for at least some gold in the short course pool: World Record holder Vlad Morozov of Russia; and World Record holder from Lithuania. Meilutyte is working her way back from an injury in a bicycle accident from September, and though she’s absent, her newest training partner Moniek Nijhuis of the Netherlands is racing.
Also missing is the majority of France’s “A” team. They are still sending 13, mostly younger, swimmers to the meet, however few, if any, are expected to contend for medals. The biggest exception to that is Lara Grangeon, who hails originally from New Caledonia. She was the 2010 bronze medalist at this meet in the 200 IM and 400 IM, and will serve as a veteran on a team of youth.
And finally, World Champion and European Record holder Gregorio Paltrinieri will lead a rather loaded Italian team into the meet. The star will race the 400 free and 1500 free individually. He’s likely to blow-away his best time in the 400 free of 3:44.97 at this meet, and will have an outside chance at Grant Hackett’s 1500 World Record of 14:10.10, which is six seconds ahead of Paltrinieri’s best.
Politics to Watch
After early comments that they might not go because of security concerns, most of the expected Germans are participating. Marco Koch and Paul Biedermann, the two stars, never wavered in their commitment to this meet, but Alexandra Wenk, who was quoted by German news as not feeling as though it was worth the risk to attend, is entered at the meet.
Making their debut at the European Championships is Kosovo. The federation was founded in 1997, a decade prior to its parliament officially declaring independence from Serbia in 2008. The IOC, FINA and LEN all admitted the federation to their organizations earlier this year, and the country made its World Championships debut in Russia this summer. There, the country had four participants (two male and two female), with a highlight of a 46th-place finish from Rita Zeqiri in the women’s 50 backstroke.
In Israel, only Flaka Pruthi and Meriton Veliu are scheduled to compete so far (though Veliu’s events are not officially inscribed).
Kosovo, despite only now beginning to officially compete as a nation in international competitions, has some history of influencing swimming. At the 2008 European Championships, in the same year as Kosovo declared independence, Milorad Cavic was suspended for the latter half of the European Championships for wearing a shirt that reads “Kosovo is Serbia” on the medal podium after winning the 50 fly.
While most of the world, including over half of the United Nations, have recognized Kosovo as a sovereign nation, neither Russia, the host of the summer’s World Championships, nor Israel, the host of next month’s European Championships, have formally done so.