Pieter van den Hoogenband won his fourth gold, in the 200 free. He was under the world-record split at the 150, but tightened up in the last 25, dropping to four tenths over Grant Hackett's (AUS) swim from March. Although a new world record was expected by many including visiting Aussie coach Don Talbot, van den Hoogenband did not disappoint in his effort. He was ahead of the world-record pace at two points in the race, at the 50 and at the 150, but fell short at the finish with his 1:47.09.
|World record splits|
|25.15||51.98||1:19.67||1:46.67||Grant Hackett, AUS|
|25.03||52.10||1:19.61||1:47.09||van den Hoogenband|
Surprisingly, van den Hoogenband said after the race, "Everybody expected me to win easily and that put additional pressure on me. I never thought about a world record in this race. I just wanted to win."
Paul Palmer (GBR) placed second in the 200 free after almost missing the semi-final. He placed 17th in the heats, but after a scratch was able to win his semi and automatically qualify for the final. Palmer was the defending champion from 1997, but was lucky to get the chance to swim. "In the prelims I was sleeping, my mind was not on the job, but I think I shall send the guy who withdrew (backstroker Arunas Savickas) a Christmas card!"
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Inge de Bruijn has been medalling at the Europeans since 1991, and she finally won her first European title with a 58.49 in the 100 fly. She broke her own European record from the semis.
Sandra Volker (GER) won the women's 100 back in a personal best of 1:01.39. Although she has been focusing on her freestyle since Atlanta, Volker has decided to concentrate on backstroke again for Sydney. "It was a very good race, except for the last few metres," Volker said. "I lost my concentration after the semi-finals. I love the atmosphere here in Istanbul; the Turkish people are excellent hosts."
Nina Zhivanevskaya (ESP) placed second in her first competition since leaving Russia in 1997. After departing her homeland, she was unable to compete until her new Spanish citizenship came through. "I am not really happy with my time (her personal best is 1:00.83) but it's good that I've won the silver. It was my first competition since the 1996 Olympics."
Once again Pieter van den Hoogenband stole the show. Unfortunately, part of it was stolen right back. After winning his semi-final heat in the 50 free with a new meet record and beating Popov yet again, van den Hoogenband anchored the Dutch 4x200 free relay in a 1:45.20, (the fastest relay split of all time.) But because of the no-false-start rule now in effect, the Netherlands was disqualified for jumping the gun at the start of the race. The rule means that swimmers are disqualified after the completion of the race, rather than calling the swimmers back to start again.
Italy was disqualified too, however their mistake was made on the first takeover. That put Germany in first and moved GBR and RUS onto the medal podium.
In the women's 200 free, Camelia Potec won with a 1:58.79, 0.08 seconds under her best from the lead out-leg of the Romanian 4x200 free relay. Technically great, Potec's smooth stroke appears easy in the water, although she credits her recent improvements to her hard training.
Kovacs completed the triple by winning the 200 breast in a 2:27.12. She was more than two seconds over her winning time from 1997, but was smiling all the same. She was on world-record pace until the 150, falling off Penny Heyns' (RSA) world record set in early July in Los Angeles. Kovacs beat Beatrice Caslaru (ROM), who won her seventh European silver medal. She has four from 1991, and three more from Istanbul.
Lars Frolander (SWE) swam a fast 100 fly. His time of 52.61 was a best time and good enough to move him up to fifth on the all-time list. After an average swim in the 200 fly, James Hickman (GBR) swam a 52.97 to place second.
The final night of swimming began with a bang as Sandra Volker broke her own world record in the 50 back. Her time of 28.71 bettered her time from Monaco by 7/100 seconds. Her high turnover and strong kick from start to finish make her clearly superior. She owns this event with five of the top ten performances, and for now she's the only one under 29 seconds.
Not to be outdone, van den Hoogenband won the 50 free in a new European meet record. Lorenzo Vismara (ITA) placed second, beating Popov who was third. Van den Hoogenband then capped off a perfect competition by anchoring the Dutch winning 4x100 medley relay. He split 47.20, 15/100ths faster than in the free relay, earning his sixth gold medal on the way.
Mette Jacobsen (DEN) won the 200 fly in 2:10.40. Jacobsen has won European and Olympic medals, but never gold in this event. Although she was seeded first in the 200 free, Jacobsen scratched the event in order to swim heats, semis, and finals of the three fly events.
In the women's 50 free, de Bruijn was unable to lower the record she set in the semis, but still managed to go under 25 for the second time. Therese Alshammar (SWE) was second, improving on her third-place finish from 1997. Alison Sheppard (GBR) picked the bronze in a time that pre-qualifies her for next year's Olympics.
After a decade of international competition, Alison Sheppard has found the right combination to become a consistent sprinter. She moved to train with Gary Vandermeulen in Canada two years ago and her rapid improvement has earned her a podium spot at the Commonwealth Games, the short course World Championships and now the European Championships.
In the women's 400 free, Potec won her second gold of the competition with a 4:08.09. She out touched German veteran Kerstin Kielgass, repeating their one-two finish from the 200 free. Kielgass, 29, swam her lifetime best with a 4:08.57. IM star Jana Klochkova was third. Swimming the event for the first time ever, her 4:10.11 was more than respectable.
Although the North Americans, Aussies, and Asians have yet to prove their stuff this summer, the Europeans clearly sent a message to the swimmers heading to the Pan Pacs in Sydney-they better get ready to do some fast swimming next summer.