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European Championships Berlin, Day 3 Finals

Aug 20, 2014  - James Parrack

Day 3 Finals

After the lull of the morning heats the day 3 finals in Berlin exploded into life with a European record in the men’s 1500m and some stunning finishes.

Setting the tone of the night was 19 year old Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who set off on his 1500 with the European record in his sights, turning at 100m in 55.54 and already clear of the field. Fortune favours the brave (most of the time) but this was a swim from a young man who clearly knows his potential and ability.  The defending champion, who also won bronze at the worlds last year, is now the fastest ever in Europe and 5th fastest all time, stopping the clock at 14:39.93, and over 10 seconds clear of Pal Joensen (FAR, that’s the Faroe Islands for those that don’t know, so he swims for Denmark at the Olympics), from lane 1, and team mate Gabriele Detti, also 19, with the Brits Milne and Lelliot in 4th and 5th.

The atmosphere continued with one of the highlight swims of the night, the men’s 200m free, with world record holder and three time defending champion Paul Biedermann in lane 4, Olympic and world champion Yannick Agnel in 1, and the versatile winner of the 400m free Stjepanovic (SRB) in 5, and as a bonus the 32 year old Filippo Magnini in 8.

After an enthralling 150m it turned into a head to head shoot out between Biedermann and Stjepanovic.  Behind the leaders, 0.77sec would separate Agnel, in third from Magnini in 8th, but as the pair raced stroke for stroke to the finish, it was the local hero who appeared to hold a the slightest of advantages.  As the final arm strokes came round to the pad, the German swung to the side and finished on a shorter arm compared with Stjepanovic with a straight arm lunge to break puncture the atmosphere and silence the crowd (but not the Serbian TV commentator to our left) with a win by 0.02 sec.

Biedermann should have won.  He has longer arms.  But tellingly, he gave away a whopping 0.14 to his rival on the reaction off the start.  And who says the little things don’t count...

There was another blanket finish in the men’s 200m IM as four swimmers lead the charge down the final 50m: four time defending champion Laszlo Cseh (HUN) in 4, European short course champion Philip Heintz (GER) in 5, Markus Deibler (GER) in 3, and Roberto Pavoni in 6.  Deibler was leading the quartet with around three strokes to go, but contrived to finish 4th behind the other three in the order above, 0.07sec behind bronze and 0.19sec behind gold.  Heartbreak for Deibler, but another thrilling race.

As tense, but slightly less thrilling, unless you’re Sarah Sjoestroem, was the women’s 100m free.  A weaker event than usual this year, but the Swede was a dominant winner after a nervous first 50m, touching in 52.67, and 0.97sec clear of Femke Heemskerk, whose challenge never materialised in the second half.  Heemskerk is one of the most engaging swimmers in the pool, but struggles a little with the instinct to want to demolish the opposition, which is so evident in Sjoestroem.  It’s not a criticism, she is a wonderful person, highly professional and a role model to a generation.  Sport doesn’t develop character, it reveals character.  Heemskerk is lovely and finished second.  Sjoestroem is lovely and finished first.  And that’s the way it is.

In the women’s 100m breaststroke, with Meilutyte and Efimova missing, there was another dominant win from the European sc champion Rikke Moeller Pedersen.  The Dane finished third last time and upgraded that to first tonight, finishing in 1:06.23 and 0.81 ahead of Jennie Johansson of Sweden.  European junior champion from last month, 17 year old Arianna Castiglioni (ITA) is one to watch for the future after she finished in third.

The semi finals held no suprises: Denmark’s Viktor Bromer leading in the 200m fly; Hosszu (on 2:08.41) is clear in front of Belmonte and Willmott in the women’s 200m IM and Mie Nielsen leads a close field into the women’s 100m back final tomorrow, where Hosszu will be a threat again. 

Under the wheel of a roof, the men’s 50m backstroke though saw Jeremy Stravius (FRA) swimming right on the lane line, as did Mie Nielsen in the 100m back, and Italy’s Pizzamiglio crash in the line with his left arm with 5m to go to see him finish in 10th, and 0.04 away from qualifying for the final.  I could keep count of the hundredths that made a difference tonight, but I think you get the picture.

The men’s 200 breaststroke semi finals was dominated by the British, with Commonwealth champion Ross Murdoch leading the qualifiers with a 2:08.65, and Andrew Willis in third, on 2:08.93.  Marco Koch of Germany took the cheers of the crowd with another aggressive swim from the front, but one has to be careful what one says on air: overheard on the tribune was “And it’s good to have Koch between the two British men tomorrow night.”

James Parrack is the Eurosport swimming commentator and co-founder of the BEST Swim Centre in Mallorca