After a sleepy morning session on Thursday, the finals went at a much improved pace, with a slew of World-ranked times being posted. As has become the norm, a lot of swimmers tied or broke National Records as well: England, Greece, Lichtenstein, Norway, Israel and Sweden were the culprits on day 4. But the highlight of the session was a third Championship Record, this one at the hands of Daniel Gyurta.
Even beyond him, the home team continued to star in the meet, winning the first three finals of the day, and tagging on a fourth later in the session.
Women’s 800 Free
The Hungarians began a very strong home affair with their 3rd individual European Title of the meet following a win in the 800 free from 19-year old Boglarka Kapas in 8:26.49. That’s the second-best time of her career (behind last year’s World Championship final) and is another big step in the progression of a young swimmer with Olympic medal potential. She actually put a big negative-split into this race, opening in 4:14 and closing in 4:12 – the latter being faster than she closed in Shanghai. That says she’s definitely got a taper left in her.
The negative-split was the name-of-the-game for this group of swimmers who were unlikely on full tapers, as the top four all pulled it off. The silver medal went to France’s Coralie Balmy in 8:27.79 (her best time since 2009); Hungary put another swimmer on the medal-stand with Eva Risztov taking bronze in 8:27.87. She actually sat second, just a fingertip ahead of Balmy, for most of the end of the race, but in the final 50 meters, Balmy crushed it, while Risztov couldn’t hold on.
Spain’s Erika Villaecija Garcia (8:29.21) also swam a negative-split (4:15.0-4:14.2) for 4th, while her countrymate Melania Costa Schmid was 5th in 8:29.71.
Lichtenstein’s Julia Hasler, who just turned 19, was 7th in the final and well out of the medal hunt, but her 8:38.18 crushed her own National Record in the event, for the fourth time this year.
Women’s 200 IM
Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu completed a sweep of the IM titles with a 2:10.84, using her unparalleled consistency (in Europe at least) to lead wire-to-wire. That swim is her best of the season, but still leaves her ranked 8th in the world this year.
In a story that she’s seen before thanks to big college battles with Caitlin Leverenz, Hosszu was nearly run down in this 200 IM by a great breaststroker – Britain’s Sophie Allen. Allen went from a distant 5th to a slim 2nd (four-tenths back at the final turn) on that one leg, but ultimately could bet no closer. She touched 2nd in 2:11.49. Though she couldn’t run down Hosszu on the final 50, Allen still has to be happy with that closing split of 31.13. This swim breaks her own English Record in the event, set earlier this year at British Trials.
For the second-straight event, Hungary put a second swimmer on the medal stand, with Evelyn Verraszto finishing 3rd in 2:11.64. Germany’s Theresa Michalak was 4th in 2:12.26, passing Sweden’s Stina Gardell in the final 50 meters.
Gardell swam a 2:12.29 for 5th, which ties her semi-final time as a new Swedish Record in the event.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke
Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta is a swim coach’s worst nightmare. His stroke goes against every modern theory of what a perfect, smooth breaststroke should look like, and is best described as “ugly”. That is except for one area: the ability to close. Gyruta closes like few other in the world do these days in jammers, and he did that again here with a 2:08.60 to cut three-tenths off of his 2010 Championship Record in the race and defend his title. That swim also ranks him 3rd in the world this year.
But maybe that’s the key to breaststroke that we’re still trying to understand – we don’t really know how it works, we’re just shooting in the dark until we find something that clicks for each swimmer, and Gyurta has found something that works extremely well for him. He has what most would term “terrible technique,” but is still the best in the world.
Gyurta sat third at the halfway mark, but by the time he hit the final touch-pad, the race wasn’t that close for the defending World Champion. He now holds every possible major title in this event since the last Olympics (2009/2011 LC Worlds, 2010 World SC, 2010/2012 LC Euro, 2009/2011 SC Euro). With that kind of success, how could you pick against him? The finish is the only thing that can get him, because of the way he swims breaststroke, his finishes aren’t always the cleanest in the world as compared to a Kitajima with super-quick hands.
Germany’s Marco Koch moved to 4th in the World Rankings, finishing for silver in 2:09.26. That’s the second week in a row that he’s had a great swim in this 200 along with German Trials, and he certainly seems to have the talent to get to a 2:08 in London.
Greece’s Panagiotis Samilidis took bronze to break the Greek National Record for the second-straight swim, and his 2:09.72 made him the first swimmer from his country to ever go under 2:10 in this event. For the 18-year old, that knocked almost a full-second off of his record-breaking mark in the semi-finals.
Germany’s Christian vom Lehn was 4th in 2:10.61.
Women’s 100 Backstroke
The Germans are still looking very good in this meet a week after their Olympic Trials, and backstroker Jenny Mensing continued that trend with a 1:00.08 in the women’s 100 backstroke. That gives Germany a 5th gold medal and 10th overall medal of the meet to keep pace with Hungary’s onslaught.
Italy’s Arianna Barbieri was second in 1:00.54 with an outstanding opening 50 of 29.20 (she has to become the favorite in that final). She wasn’t able to match her National Record from the prelims in the latter two rounds of this event, but this meet was still a big step forward – and one that Italy needed as they have a severe backstroke deficit.
The Czech Republic’s Simona Buamrtova took the bronze in 1:00.57, and the Ukrain’es Daryna Zevina was 4th in 1:00.59. France’s Alexianne Castel, winner of the 200 back, was the second-fastest qualifier for this final, but scratched.
Men’s 200 Fly
Just like we saw him do in the early rounds of the 200 IM, Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh conserved a ton of energy through the early rounds of this 200 fly, but unleashed upon the final – to the tune of a 1:54.95 – ranking 3rd in the world in 2012. That’s the best time he’s been outside of Beijing by a second. Cseh is once again stepping up bigtime in an Olympic year.
His countrymate and understudy, teenager Bence Biczo, was 2nd in 1:55.85 – about what he went in the semis, and a good mark for him. He won’t be a medalist this year, but if he can final, it will be an important step up for him.
Ioannis Drymonakos very nearly took down the second Greek Record of the meet with a 1:56.48 for the bronze. That missed his own national mark set in 2007 by just .01.
Austria’s Dinko Jukic, relieved after being cleared for a refused drug test in October, placed 4th in 1:56.53.
Men’s 50 Backstroke
Israel’s Jonatan Kopelev broke the second Israeli National backstroking of the meet with a 24.73 for the gold – also moving him into 12th on the all-time list and 2nd in the world this year. Between him and teammate Yakov Toumarkin, bronze medalist in the 100 back (and the other record-setter), the Israeli’s have a lethal young competition, not to mention the relative veteran Guy Barnea, who was tied for 3rd in this race at 25.14.
Italy’s Mirco di Tora took silver in 24.95, with France’s Dorian Gandin being the man to tie Barnea.
Also in this race, Norway’s Lavrans Solli rebroke his country’s National Record with a 25.28, which also breaks the Nordic Regional Record. The previous mark coming into the meet was held by Denmarks Mathias Gydesenin 25.44.
Women’s 800 Free Relay
The first three legs of the Italian relay swam as well as they ever have, with Alice Mizzau (1:58.67), Alice Nesti (1:59.50), and Diletta Carli (1:59.40) were all at-or-better than their fastest flat-start swims already. Then they handed off to the dominant one – Federica Pellegrini – who just blew away Hungary’s anchor Katinka Hosszu on the anchor with a 1:55.33 to charge the Italians to a win in 7:52.90. This has been a race that she’s been reluctant to go all-out for in the past, including only splitting a disappointing 1:58 at last year’s Worlds in prelims. But with this group showing how well they can swim – this time would have put them right in the thick of a top-4 finish last season – she’ll have to be motivated in London. This swim all-but secures their spot at the Olympics.
Hungary would take second in 7:54.50, just missing another gold medal, and Slovenia (led off by Sara Isakovic) was 3rd in 7:59.73.
- France’s Amaury Leveaux remained the top seed for the second straight round with a 48.52, followed closely by Filippo Magnini (48.84) and Germany’s Marco di Carli (48.96) – who had a great opening 50. Those were the three expected contenders, but the next three in the rankings were surprises. Norbert Trandafir of Romania, and the Belgians Dieter Dekoninck and Pieter Timmers all at 49.2 or better.
- Norway’s Ingvild Sinldal is seeking her second medal of the championship with the top seed in the women’s 100 fly in 58.07 – the 50 meter specialist went out predictably fast in 27.0. Sweden’s Martina Granstroem took the second seed in 58.39, with Greece’s Kristel Vourna in 3rd in 58.79. The youngest swimmer in the final is Hungary’s Liliana Szilagyi, who at only 15 put up a 59.49.
- Russia’s Irina Novikova, the third-in-line in a good Russian breaststroking group, took the top seed in the 200 semi in 2:26.49. Mind you, she only just surpassed her 17th birthday. Sweden’s Joline Hoestman took 2nd in 2:27.89, with Norway’s Sara Nordenstam winning the other heat with a 2:27.91 for the third seed.