Three WRs: Belmonte; Pellegrini; Donets
Dec 14, 2008 - Craig Lord
Rijeka - European short-course Championships, day 4 finals and semi-finals:
The techno twist continued with a vengeance here as Mireia Belmonte (ESP), cracked out a world record of 4:25.06 in the 400m medley, Federica Pellegrini, Olympic champion, floated in two suits to a world record of 1:51.85 in the 200m freestyle and Stanislav Donets (RUS), his head clearly emerging from the water beyond the 15m marker, set a world record of 49.32 in the 100m backstroke. It's the last session of a championships that will go down in history as the moment when the sport said: don't be daft!
In the 400m medley, the silver and bronze went to Italians Alessia Filippi and Francesca Segat in 4:26.06 and 4:27.12. Hannah Miley (GBR) was fourth in 4:27.33. The world record had been held at 4:25.87 by Julia Smith (USA) since November 28.
"I fully focussed on this event here," said Belmonte. Well, that'll explain it then. "But I dodn't reckon with a world record. I took only three weeks off after the Olympics, which might explain why I'm in such good form at present." Among other reasons, of course.
Here's how the all-time top 10 has changed since Feb 1, 2008:
You'll notice that Filippi in a federation wetsuit that makes a very striking, tall, statuesque and fit woman look fat, has not gained that much on the clock. How about her teammate Segat, 25, who wore a copper-coloured number that made her look like she swum off the set of Nemo.
Larfaoui stayed to give the winner of the men's 200m breaststroke crown his medal too: it went to Hugues Duboscq (FRA) in a European record of 2:04.59, ahead of Edoardo Giorgetti (ITA), on 2:04.98. Bronze went to Igor Borysik (UKR) in 2:05.47, with Kristopher Gilchrist (GBR) fourth in 2:05.84.
Next up, the Lioness of Verona. How she roared. Here are the splits that got Pellegrini past the efforts of Coralie Balmy at French nationals last weekend.
2008 world record No 104 and European record No 133:
The silver went to Femke Heemskerk (NED) in 1:53.79 and the bronze to Daria Belyakina (RUS) in 1:53.85. The former world record holder, Balmy, was fifth in 1:55.13, behind Petra Granlund on 1:55.04.
"I'm overjoyed," said Pellegrini, whose federation signed up to wear wetsuits a few months ago, signed up to cutting out that and other technology before it hosts the 2009 world championships in Rome, but cheered on their charge tonight as though it meant as much as it might have done had the sport not plunged intself into the chaos that runs through the very flesh and bone of these championships. "It was a great race. I only took four weeks off after the Games and that's why I'm back in shape," said the woman who collapsed breathless at a meet in Italy a couple of weeks ago before tests indicated a panic attack.
The world record in the 100m backstroke had stood Peter Marshall (USA) at 49.63, off a 23.85 split, since last month. Donets went through in 23.71 on the way to what was also a European record of 49.32, ahead of the mark set yesterday by Spain's Ashwin Wildeboer in 49.66. He improved on that to take silver, going out in 23.66 on the way to 49.61. Bronze went to Helge Meeuw (GER) in 50.89.
Peter Mankoc, a Slovenian who has been winning medley crowns since the last Millennium, won another, this time in a European record of 51.97. That's continental standard 134 this year. GDR and all those little blue pills - eat your heart out. Not the athlete's fault - never was. But a freak show of sorts nonetheless. Silver went to Christian Galenda (ITA), in 52.29, and the bronze to James Goddard (GBR), in 52.36.
No records fell in the 100m breaststroke, nor in the men's 200m free, nor the women's 100m 'fly, Plenty of people jetting into the upper realms of the all-time rankings, of course. Just as you'd expect. Valentina Artemyeva (RUS) cwon the 100m breast title in 1:05.02, ahead of Sophie de Ronchi (FRA), on 1:05.43 and Mirna Jukic (AUT), on 1:05.64. The 100m 'fly went to Jeanentte Ottesen (DEN) in 56.70 ahead of Diane Bui (FRA), on 56.83, and Eszter Dara (HUN), on 56.88. Daniil Izotov (RUS) claimed the 200m free crown in 1:43.09 in the absence of world record holder Paul Biedermann (GER), out in heats. Why? "Because his lane was longer than everybody else's and he had to swim uphill," joked his coach. What could he mean? Maybe he meant the type of suit his charge wore. Who knows.
In morning heats, Alexandra Putra (FRA) set the second-fastest 200m back time ever, a European record of 2:02.36. The standard had stood to Elizabeth Simmonds at 2:02.60 since world championships in March. Putra later became champion in 2:02.48, silver went to teammate Alexianne Castel, in 2:03.10, and bronze to Simmonds, in 2:03.11. There's no polite way of saying this: Putra is slightly chubby, relatively speaking. The suit is holding her in. I note that not to insult - just to note that technology helps some more than others. No question - an unlevel playing field that is not decided by nature. Check out Putra's progress:
After a world record of 22.18 in morning heats of the 50m butterfly, Amaury Leveaux (FRA) clocked 22.33 in semis and 22.23 to take the title ahead of Milorad Cavic (SRB), on 22.36, and Rafael Munoz (ESP), on 22.48. Leveaux now holds the best four times ever in the 'fly dash. Best time a year ago: 24.30. Fabulous.
Little wonder that the 2m 02cms tall Leveaux described one of his moments this week as like gatecrashing a "mythical barrier". The 1.68sec gulf between Leveaux’s 100m free gold and the bronze-winning time is beyond all experience: the average difference between gold and bronze in the history of world and European short-course championships is 0.5sec. Leveaux went through the timewarp again in the relay that ended the meet. The French 4x50m freestyle quartet wiped 3.40sec off the world best time on the day, for a 1min 20.77 victory that waved goodbye to a championship that beyond the doping sorrows we have suffered was the saddest I have ever witnessed.
The French techno pioneers:
The achievements of hard-working athletes and coaches have been reduced to a circus here in Rijeka. Coaches and federations have spoken. Their message is clear. FINA, fudge this one at your peril as you approach the Year of Sink Or Swim for a sport transformed for the worse.