Nicolo Martinenghi: “What a Perfect Ending to These Championships” (Flash Quotes)


Italy closed out their dominant European Championships with a win and championship record in the men’s 4×100 medley relay. They defended their gold medal from World Championships–where they upset the U.S.–with a time of 3:28.46. After the race, their deadly front half of Thomas Ceccon and Nicolo Martinenghi spoke about what it meant to be able to close out their championships with a win in front of the home crowd.

“To be honest, today I gave everything I had in me,” said Martinenghi, who split 57.72 on the breaststroke leg. “Right now I have no energy left at all but swimming this relay was super emotional for me. It feels great to have the fans back to the stands it makes such a huge difference, especially for us Italians. But I think the others teams can also feel that here in Italy fans understand and support swimming. What a perfect ending [to] these championships!” 

“It feels beautiful,” Ceccon said, echoing Martinenghi. “Someone even told me that even the TV cameras were shaking a bit during our race which  never happened before. The experience of these championships are memories to be cherished forever.” 

Martinenghi won the 50 and 100 breaststroke earlier in the meet. Ceccon finished second in the 50 backstroke and before the medley relay, won the 100 backstroke, out-touching a hard charging Apostolos Christou. The win meant a lot to him, as he backed up his world record and World Championship title from Budapest, even if the race didn’t go exactly the way he planned it. “I wanted to pace myself and then do a faster finish but I started off quickly and finished it that way. And now I’m really the No. 1 in the world!” 

Also defending their Worlds win was Ben ProudWith his European Championships title, the 27-year-old Brit became the first man to win the 50 freestyle at Worlds, Commonwealth Games, and Euros in the same year. “This is a great achievement,” he said.

“After the last couple of months that have been really tough, it feels like something very special. After the Olympics it took me a while to face my demons and realize that I needed to make some changes,” Proud continued. “They were the ones who brought me to where I am now. The  whole three-month period between March and June was really strange and it also took a while to feel better and find ways for my swimming to make it sustainable. Had three goals, Worlds,  Commonwealth, Europeans and now it all really feels surreal now. I feel great now. Having gone  though those strange circumstances, I only respect more the people who retain their titles years round.” 

16-year-old Lana Pudar was a first time European title winner on the final day, winning the 200 butterfly and Bosnia and Herzegovinia’s first gold medal at Euros. Earlier in the meet, she won their first medal ever with a bronze in the 100 fly. She set new national records in both events.

“I’m overjoyed,” she said, “this is my first senior European title and a new personal best. I really don’t know what to say, I’m lacking the words…” Pudar continued, “I felt great in the water today, after the 100m fly I felt really tired and exhausted both physically and psychologically. I didn’t really believe myself that I could perform like this today. This is the best possible end of this very long and successful season. It has  been my first with such intensity. I hope there will be many more.” 

Ruta Meilutyte last won the 50 breaststroke at Euros in the 2014, but now eight years later, she’s the European Champion again. Meilutyte has been on an incredible comeback this season; at Worlds, she won gold in the 50 breaststroke and bronze in the 100. Meilutyte spoke about her comeback after the race, saying “I’m grateful to be here, for being able to do it this way. It is not so much about the time but more about who I want to be as a person and as an athlete. To do what is right for me. I’m grateful for  everything that happened – and I can’t tell any more than this.” 

Before this session, Germany hadn’t won any gold medals at this year’s Euros. Then, they won back-to-back events, sweeping the 400 freestyles, with Isabel Gose winning the women’s race and Lukas Märtens taking the men’s. “I’m super happy, I trained very hard and it was an extremely long season,” said Gose. “Being able to bring back home a gold is an amazing feeling. I couldn’t call it a perfect race, I know right now what I  should improve so we will have a lot to work on when I return to the pool.” 

“This event is my specialty,” said Märtens, “so it’s more than satisfying to get the gold at the end. I was hoping for a medal, I had already reached the second place in the 800m and I knew I was in a good condition to make the podium here.”

Hubert Kos kept Hungary’s momentum rolling, adding another gold medal to their total with a win in 200 IM. He holds the world junior record in 1:56.99. He was off that time tonight, but even so, it was clear that he felt the absence of 200 IM world champion, Frenchman Leon Marchand. “It’s not as good as my personal best but here only the win mattered and if it takes a time like this,  be then. This gold is a gift as we don’t have Leon Marchand here who is the best today.” 

As for how he felt the race went, he added “I didn’t really see much from the race, but I was feeling all the way that I was holding on and had a chance. I wanted to enjoy the last five weeks of my preps, that was my sole goal and I had the same  approach towards this final. To enter the pool, jump in, swim the event and see what happens, no  pressure. It worked.”

In a thrilling race, Sweden claimed gold in the women’s 4×100 medley relay. Sarah Sjostrom dropped a sizzling 52.04 anchor, powering past France to win. Sophie Hansson confirmed what Martinenghi said about swimmers from other countries being able to feel the energy of the Italian crowd, saying It feels amazing, it is incredible to swim here and feel the support of the fans, even though we are  not Italians. They really know and respect swimming and the athletes. At the last European  Championships I could only see my parents on a small screen and now they are here to watch me  winning. There is no better feeling than that.”

Sjostrom also echoed Martinenghi, calling the win “a perfect ending to these Championships.”

Hear From Other Medal Winners

Men’s 50 Freestyle

For Leonardo Deplano, his silver medal in the 50 freestyle was his first individual medal. “I did my personal best…what can I say, what could be better than this? I’m really happy, I’m  enjoying the moment, it’s my first individual podium ever, I’m at home and the audience makes this  moment very unique. I think competing at home is a great luck, which we may not have next time.” 

Bronze medalist Kristian Gkolomeev was also happy with the results of the race, though for different reasons than Deplano. “It felt great, it was a good race and I’m very happy with the result. I took a breat after the  Olympics so I started training again in March only so I can only be satisfied with this medal. My  baby was born two months ago that’s why I had to take some time off. It’s been a lot of changes but  everything is great and they are even here and watching me from the stands.”

Women’s 50 Breaststroke

“That was a great time for me because I haven’t swum a time like this in the entire year,” said Benedetta Pilato, the world record holder in the event. She won silver in 29.71, faster than she went at Worlds. “I’ve dedicated this season to the 100, so the focus of the preparations was totally on that event. And  this year I managed to win the world and then here the European title in the 100, so this silver is a gift for me.” 

For Imogen Clark, the bronze medalist, the medal is a significant achievement, as she spent seven days in isolation due to COVID-19 between Commonwealths and Euros. In the semifinals, she set a personal best 30.10. “I feel amazing!”, she said. “It was a great race to be part of. It’s truly a dream come true to win  this medal. I’m just coming off from the Commonwealth Games, won a medal there as well, and now I got a European one. I haven’t swum at the Europeans for four years, so this is great.” 

 Women’s 200 Butterfly

Behind Pudar, Denmark’s Helena Bach won the silver medal in national record fashion. “I’m really satisfied with my performance and my time. I was trying to focus on my race and have fun because I love this pool, this huge audience in Rome. It’s amazing as I did my best time and got  this incredible silver medal.” 

Italy’s Ilaria Cusinato won bronze, and emphasized how special the medal is to her given the season that she’s had. “It’s a very special medal for me because I had several problems this year. I was feeling very good,  I’ve never swum a time like this, it is my personal best. I was very tired but the audience supported me in a great way and for a person like me this is the best I can ask for.”

Men’s 100 Backstroke

Christou won gold in the men’s 50 backstroke ahead of Ceccon, but in the 100, the results were reversed. Still, the Greek wasn’t unhappy with his performance. “That was a good and close race. I knew I had to give it all, I didn’t see but I felt Ceccon was  charging from behind so I tried to push extremely hard. As I saw in the replay on the wall, Ceccon  did better over the last three meters so I’m not disappointed to lose the gold by 0.03 seconds, because this my second fastest time ever after the Worlds in Budapest. That was a very long season  and I think I did a great job.” 

At Worlds, Christou popped 52.09 to lead the semifinals, setting a Greek record and a then-Championship record before Ceccon broke the world record in the final.

200 backstroke champion Yohann Ndoye Brouard was more ambivalent about his race.“It was alright, I’ve improved but the other guys were just very strong. I can feel I lacked the energy I needed at the end to bring it really home. I could feel my legs hurting right now.”

Men’s 200 IM

After winning gold in the 400 IM and bronze in the 200 fly, Alberto Razzetti added a silver medal to his haul. “This is my third medal here so it’s pretty nice,” he said. “Could have been gold as it was so close but at the  end it’s still amazing to finish the championships with another podium. I cannot complain at the end  of the day, I have a gold, a silver and a bronze in Rome.”

Portugal’s Gabriel Lopes has had a strong meet as well, setting a national record in the 200 breaststroke, and he ended his meet with a bronze in the 200 IM. “I’m pretty happy, after the heats and the semis I was feeling confident that I would be able to do  my personal best here. And I just did. I knew it would be a tough race for the medals. This is my first European podium so I’m very happy right now.”

Women’s 400 Freestyle

Simona Quadarella earned silver in the women’s 400 freestyle, one gold medal away from completing a rare triple-triple. After the race, she said “I feel sorry for not winning this in front of these amazing fans. I felt just a bit short of winning, I lacked small things to achieve my goal. Still, I’m satisfied,” she continued, “it’s fine to have an end like this to  conclude this long and exhausting season.”

Bronze medalist Ajna Kesely had no such mixed feelings about her medal. “After a series of 4th places finally here is a bronze medal. I never believed I could reach the podium from the side lane, though during the heats I started toying with the idea that I might stand a chance to get onto the podium but then I erased the thought and focused only on the final. The first  200m was easy, the pain kicked in at 250m so that time I told myself that it was all on me, to give it  all, whatever it took. I saw my coach from close range as I turned onto my last 50m, showed me that it’s all good and that gave me the necessary extra energy, swam the last leg with confidence and now I’m extremely happy for this bronze medal.”

Men’s 400 Freestyle

Antonio Djakovic was emotional after winning the silver medal, his first at a senior international level. He tried to sum up what the medal meant to him, saying “I’m having trouble finding the words, really don’t know what to say. At the beginning of the year I couldn’t have even imagined that I was fighting for the medals. Back then I got COVID, afterwards I had trouble with my lungs and it took me three months to really get back into shape. At the end, now I have two silvers, I wasn’t expecting this, I’m really emotional now (crying). My parents were also here and watch me winning my first senior medals…in the meantime, I also passed my last  exams – so quite unexpectedly, this season is just ending in the perfect way.” 

Bronze medalist Hennig Mühlleitner spoke about how much fun the race was for him. He won bronze in 2018, and this swim was his fastest since the Tokyo Olympics. “This was just so much fun. In the call-room you could tell we were all really excited to race each other. This final was quite young with a set of newcomers and some more experienced swimmers so  it was a great mix. Everyone was really just excited to get out there. Fun is my takeaway from this race tonight.”

Women’s 4×100 Medley Relay

The French women were thrilled with their silver in the medley relay, as they set a national record to earn the medal. Marie Wattel threw down a sizzling 56.09 fly split, but perhaps the most exciting part of their relay was Charlotte Bonnet showing off her versatility and splitting 1:06.49 on breaststroke.

Freestyler Beryl Gastaldello hyped Bonnet up, saying “we put Charlotte (Bonnet) in the breaststroke, she never did it so I bet that surprised the people. We knew we were capable of doing this so we are very proud. This was so much fun. Now we are just going to work hard and we will kill them all at the Olympics. This is indescribable  and I’ll probably cry on the podium.” 

Marrit Steenbergen has had an incredible meet, dropping clutch relay legs, as well as winning the 100 free, 200 free, and a silver in the 200 IM. After the relay, she tried to sum up her meet. “This is an insane week, I’m so tired after during this week I was trying to forget all the expectations,” she said. “Honestly, I don’t know what has happened because I didn’t expect seven medals in  one meet – maybe one individual podium and two in relays. But seven were never in my mind so I’m extremely happy.”

Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay

France also finished second in the men’s 4×100 medley relay. Both Ndoye Brouard and Maxime Grousset commented on how the women’s race motivated them in theirs. “We were super shocked by the girls’ results before us we told ourselves now  it’s our turn,” said Ndoye Brouard. Grousset echoed that, saying “I want to congratulate the girls. To have both relays placed second is incredible.”

Bronze medalists Austria were also thrilled with their result, and Bernhard Reitshammer emphasized what was so special about their medal, explaining that “our last relay medal was in 2009 in the  4x200m free so this podium is simply amazing.” 

Simon Bucher followed up Reitshammer, going into more detail about the race. “It’s an exciting moment, the gap was very narrow, everything came up well for each of us. And with the Italians fans and seeing the letters on the screen was amazing and this is a great achievement.”

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1 year ago

Italian here. Loved every moment of this championship. Of course I loved the strong perfomance of our Azzurri, now definitely one of the powerhouses of swimming, but the atmosphere at the Foro Italico was simply unbelievable, and I trust that all athletes, Italians and foreigners alike, enjoyed it and were motivated by it.

1 year ago

Nothing but love and respect for this Italian Team.
What a talented, hard working generation!

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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