It was a varied finals night in the London Aquatics Centre. Quite understandably some of the top athletes are not focusing on European titles this year due to the looming Olympic Games. We have seen some evidence of this is in the program this evening, however, we have also seen 3 Championship Records felled and a marked increase in depth in a selection of events on the opening night.
The obvious question for LEN and the meet organisers is why have the competition at this time of year? Quite simply there isn’t really another choice. Two years ago in Berlin the meet was at the end of the August after the Commonwealth games, which although made for a long season for the Brits, didn’t really affect the rest of Europe. This year the 2016 Olympic Games sits at the beginning of August, and it makes no sense for the Europeans to go after this. Even if the athletes forego the post-Olympic Games celebrations, they still require a rest period after a gruelling 4 year cycle. Most swimmers will not want to hold on for another 2 or 3 weeks of training and therefore the participation at a Europeans in August would be affected. The only choice then is for the event to be in May, it sits after National trial events and it is just about far enough away from the Olympics. The countries with big qualification championships (Great Britain, France and Germany) have gone back into training after their respective meets, whereas swimmers from smaller European countries have arrived shaved and rested. Many of the finals tonight have been faster than Berlin two years ago and three Championship records have fallen.
In the Mens 400 freestyle it was a one man show. Gabriele Detti turned on the after burners at 250 metres , showing his distance background and strength, and blew the field away. Defending champion Stepjanovic started well as many expected but tailed off at the end to only finish 6th. His faster heat swim may have taken more out of the Serbian than he expected. This event was considerably faster than two years ago – Stephen Milne qualified fastest in Berlin in 2014 for the final in 3.48.6. He would not have made the final this year.
Men’s 400 Freestyle: GOLD – Detti, SILVER – Christiansen, BRONZE – Bernek
There was an impressive swim from Fran Halsall in the 50 metres Butterfly. That was just outside her own British record and puts her fastest seed in the final ahead of the world record holder Sjoestrom. Halsall, unlike her team mates looked light in the water and wasn’t showing the rigours of full training. Kromowidojo showed her starting prowess in the second semi-final but was just pipped to the pad by Sjoestoem who came through well in the last few strokes.
In the first Men’s 100 Back, Greek Christou went out very fast and was able to hold on for an excellent 53.36. With that time he enters the final as favourite but Russian but Tarasevich is getting faster through the qualifying rounds and has a quicker best time of 53.03.
Brit Walker-Hebborn looked very heavy and choppy in the water. He was not his usual smooth flowing, a man that was showing all the side effects of lifting big and often in the weight room. The defending champion missed the final by 4 tenths of a second. Glinta, was not the same man in the finals tonight, swimming considerably slower. His inexperience resulted in a much tighter swim when the pressure was raised this evening. Frenchman Lacourt dropped a second in time this evening and looked much better from lane 7 but it will be a surprise if he can do that again to take the win from Christou.
Unsurprisingly Katinka Hosszu lead from start to finish in the Womens 400 Individual Medley to further beat her championship record from this morning. GBR swimmer, Hannah Miley took silver with a great swim, swimming just shy of the time that awarded her Olympic Trials qualification 4 weeks ago. Team mate, Aimee Wilmott, looked tired from the start and couldn’t repeat her morning heat time, which would have given her the bronze medal had she been able to. Instead Jakobos took away the bronze with a nice improvement from this morning. With some athletes swimming tired at this meet, improving from heat to final will mean some big moves up the rankings.
Women’s 400 Individual Medley: GOLD – Hosszu, SILVER – Miley, BRONZE – Jakobos
There was some excellent swims in the Mens 100 metre Breaststroke semi-finals. Ross Murdoch went first, and posted a time only 0.3 seconds slower than his Olympic trials qualification swim. It was great to see Murdoch moving through the gears and rates on his second length as he distanced himself from the field. His 31.6 second length split, which was only beaten by World Recorder and team mate Adam Peaty (31.4), was caused by actively increasing the stroke rate in the second length and therefore pulling away from the field. Peaty, who still can make adjustments and improvements to his start, showed exceptional swim speed leading from start to finish with a time of 58.74. He was obviously both surprised and delighted by the times he posted today, which suggests a lightening swim in Rio if preparation goes to plan. It could be Gold and Silver for the host nation tomorrow in the final.
In the Women’s 200 backstroke, Zevina’s skills on the underwater phase were fully on show as she posted the quickest time in the semi-finals with a 2.08.66. Katinka Hosszu seemed to just do enough in this event having just taken gold in the 400 IM final, and will be much closer in the final tomorrow.
There was only one man in the Men’s 50 Butterfly and his name is Anton Govorov. He set a lightening championship record with 22.73, and is now the fastest man to ever swim one length of butterfly in the textile jammers. If Govorov can replicate the power and speed in the final he will win by some margin and be knocking on the door of the World Record.