The final day of competition at the European Junior Championships saw a grand total of 33 medals handed out, and was really a day for many of the meet’s top swimmers to put a big exclamation mark on impressive performances.
Austria’s Christian Scheruebl has been quiet since winning the 400 free on the meet’s first day of competition, but he made some noise in the 200 free final with a 1:49.56. He definitely gave a thrill to the crowd in Belgrade, as he hung way back through the first 100m; he was in 6th place at the turn, more than a second out of the lead of Denmark’s Daniel Skaaning.
But then Scheruebl put together a masterful closing 100 to barely nip Skaaning at the touch. With his swim, he broke his own 18 & under Austrian National Record.
Skaaning was 2nd in 1:49.56, which left him just a tenth shy of the Danish Junior Record. All competitors were left well shy of Yannick Agnel’s impressive 1:46 from last season that put the finishing touch on a 5-gold medal performance at that meet.
After winning the 100 free earlier in the meet, Velimir Stjepanovic solidified his position as the future of Serbian swimming by winning the 100 fly in 53.79. Unlike his swims in the 100 free and 200 fly, this mark came up short of the Serbian National Junior Record (which is surprisingly not held by Olympic silver medalist Milorad Cavic, and rather belongs to Ivan Lender from 2008).
Greece’s Panagotios Samilidis thoroughly dominated the sprint breaststroke events at this meet, and following his earlier win in the men’s 50 breaststroke, he took a huge win in the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.13. That missed by two-tenths the Championship Record set by Italy’s Andrea Toniato in 2009. He was also excruciatingly close to the Greek Junior Record, but he missed that one by just two one-hundreths. Still, he’s clearly got the inside track on the future of European breaststroking for this class as he won the race by more than a second ahead of Great Britain’s Craig Benson (1:02.17). Last year’s champion, Anton Lobanov of Russia, is the only other swimmer who’s been in that stratosphere in a textile suit at this meet (he was a 1:01.06 for the gold).
The Ukraine’s Maxym Shemberyev also just barely missed a Championship Record in the men’s 400 IM. He easily won this race in 4:16.94, better than his next-closest competitor by more than three seconds, but missed Gergo Kis’ Championship Record by a tenth. He’s managed to cut roughly that same amount off of his time from this meet last season, when he was also the Champion in this event (though by a much smaller margin). He’s actually been faster this year, as his best of 4:16.24 ranks him 17th in the world. He could be a semi-surprise World Championship semi-finalist in Shanghai in a few weeks.
In the men’s 50 free, Aitor Martinez Rodriguez sprinted to a win in 22.64. That easily clears his own Spanish Junior Record and makes him the second-fastest Spaniard in this event this season.
(Note: The men’s 800 free took place in day 4, but it was such a great race, that we felt remiss that we forgot to include it in that recap, so it will be placed here).
The men’s 800 free had the same three medalists as did the 1500, only they were in the reverse order. This time, the gold went to Turkey’s Ediz Yildirimer in 8:00.82. That’s his second Turkish Senior National Record of the meet, along with his swim in the 1500, and his second-straight title in this event.
The silver went to Italy’s Gabriele Dette in 8:00.95 to match his award from the 1500. Another Italian, Gregorio Paltrinieri in 8:01.31, took 3rd, after placing as the 1500m champion.
This was about as good as a 800m race gets. Yildirimer and Paltrinieri were in a dead-heat throughout most of the race, and turned after their 5th and 6th 100’s in identical splits. Paltrinieri then went for broke on the next 50 to take over a second lead at the 650 mark, but couldn’t hold on as he faded back to the field at the 700. All of a sudden, Dette looked like he would play the spoiler, as he flipped first at the final turn for the only time in the entire race. But he too could not hold on, and Yildirimer bolted to the finish to slay the Italian distance giants.
The Italian men, somewhat appropriately given that they won twice as many medals at this meet as the men of any other country, finished the meet with a win in the last race, the 400 medley relay, in 3:42.01. Germany took 2nd, and Russia placed 3rd.
On the women’s side, the first race went to Denmark’s Mie Nielsen, who added the 100 back title to her win in the 50. She took the title in 1:02.50, and was very strong coming home to blow by Great Britain’s Jessica Fullalove (1:02.75).
Great Britain’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor was dominant in every phase of the 200 IM, and won handily in 2:14.71.
As we’ve seen so often in this meet, certain countries that have a legacy in a certain event have been shining through in their youth ranks as well. This women’s 400 IM was a spectacular example of that. The Hungarian women took gold and silver at the European Aquatics Championships (senior version) in 2010, and thus it’s no surprise that they took two out of the top four spots in the women’s 200 IM at this meet. Sara Joo took the silver medal in 2:16.34, and Reka Gyorgy, who is on the younger end of the age group, placed 4th.
Again following that theme was Louise Hansson of Sweden in the women’s 50 fly. She won in a time of 27.04. She’s only 16, and she’s still got a ways to go before matching the prowess of those two, but Sweden’s Therese Alshammar and Sarah Sjostrom were responsible for the world’s six fastest times in 2010.
In the women’s 100 breaststroke, Hungary picked up another medal thanks to a win by Anna Sztankovics in the women’s 100 breaststroke (1:09.31). That’s her second medal of the meet after a silver in the 50. Jenna Laukkanen broke the Finnish Senior National Record in 1:09.48 to take the silver, and Russia’s Irina Novikova recovered from a disappointing runner-up in the 200 (her best race) to take a bronze here in a lifetime-best of 1:09.62.
And finally, in the women’s 800 free relay, the French women took their second relay victory of the meet (along with the 400 free relay) in 8:07.63. This put them well ahead of Russia in 8:09.51.
We will wrap-up the final medal standings and share final thoughts on the meet in a recap tomorrow.