European Championships, Debrecen, Hungary, Day 4 heats:
Sebastien Rouault (FRA) set up the defence of the 800m freestyle crown in 7:57.94, the three ahead of him - and also on 7:57 - Sergiy Frolov (UKR), Gabriele Detti and another 1994-born Italian, Gregorio Paltrinieri, 1500m free champion on 14:48 yesterday.
A changing of the guard in Italian distance freestyle: back in 13th was Federico Colbertaldo, 10sec behind Paltrinieri in the first of three heats. Paltrinieri is scheduled to race at European juniors this year but is clearly ready for senior waters and his first Olympic experience.
Victory in the 800m free tomorrow would take him to a place familiar to Rouault back in Budapest in 2010 as European champion of both distance freestyle battles.
At the other end of the distance spectrum, Amaury Leveaux (FRA) and Marco Di Carli (GER) led the way through to semis of the 100m freestyle in the last of nine heats as the only sub-49sec swimmers, on 48.77 and 48.81 respectively. Among those also through were former world champion Filippo Magnini (ITA) and the Olympic champion who cannot defend his crown in London this summer (outside the top 2 at French trials), Alain Bernard. Among those who missed the top 16 cut with times of 49.87 or slower were Stefan Nystrand (SWE), Christophe Fildebrandt (GER), Petter Stymne (SWE) and Krisztian Takacs (HUN).
Joline Hostman (SWE) and Nadja Higl (SRB), the bolter who took the world title at the Rome 2009 suits circus, led the way through to semis of the 200m breaststroke on 2:28.06 and 2:28.59 respectively.
Ilaria Bianchi (ITA) led the way in the 100m butterfly heats on an all-time textile best of 58.31 (best ever by an Italian), her previous high under prevailing suit rules a 58.63 from Italian nationals in March this year, while the Italian record has stood to her at 58.12 since the heats at the beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Next through in Debrecen, Ingvild Snildal (NOR), on 58.41, with four others inside 59sec. The race went without Sarah Sjostrom, the Swedish world record holder who is focussing on freestyle in Hungary as part of her London 2012 preparations.
The session came to a close with Hungary's women booking lane 4 for the final of the 4x200m freestyle, just two of only 10 teams, Iceland and Norway, eliminated in heats. Still, that's two more quartets than in 2010, a low point after 13 teams entered for the relay at Budapest in 2006, the best entry of the past decade at European Championships.