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European Championships, Berlin

Aug 19, 2014  - James Parrack

Day 2 Heats

Before looking at the heats this morning, a few thoughts from Day 1. First, by my count there were 2-3000 in the crowd for the finals session and probably half as many for the heats sessions.  Which begs the question, why spend the money putting the temporary tank in a velodrome?  The fact is that despite how good, bad or indifferent the swimming is this week, the eye is drawn to the bizarre physics of the wooden track. The banking around the short ends is as breathtaking as anything Sjoestroem will do in the fly and the eye is as naturally drawn there as to the pool.

Second, the 4x100m free is a team event.  Denmark are a team, not a collection of individuals and they win or lose as a team.  The team was DQ’d not one swimmer.  After all, no one blames the penalty taker when they miss and the team crashes out of another major championships (except in England, where the names Pearce, Waddle and Southgate spring immediately to mind). 

Thirdly, 44 nations are taking part in these championships and yet only 7 can muster a women’s 4x100m free team.  Germany, as hosts, finally put a relay together for the mixed 4x100m today but didn’t put either a men’s or a women’s 4x100m free relay together yesterday.

Fourthly, Anna Karin Kammerling is working for Swedish radio in Berlin and has 59 medals from Olympic, world and European competition.  It is worth spending a moment imagining what 59 medals might look like.

For full results, see the EC website.

So to the day 2 heats, where the Biedermann and Agnel managed successfully to make the top 16 times in the 200m free and are both through to an evening swim, with Biedermann leading on 1:46.62.  32 year old Filippo Magnini (ITA) is still turning his arms over and finished 11th this morning.

The women’s 100m breaststroke saw Commonwealth champion Sophie Taylor (GBR) swim to 42nd place with a 1:13.47.  Who knows what was going on there, but this wasn’t a Rebecca Soni final 50 crash, this was a swim that had no intent from the start.  Without the dominance of Meilutyte and Efimova, respectively out at the Olympic youth and er, just out, this event is wide open.  1:07s looked very easy for the main contenders, chief among them Rikke Moeller Pedersen (DEN).

The men’s 200IM was a demonstration from the dominant medley swimmer in Europe, Cseh Laszlo (HUN), who cruised to a leading 1:59.17 ahead of a much harder working Markus Deibler (GER) and Roberto Pavoni (GBR), the only three under 2m.

The women’s 100m free is missing the four European swimmers who competed in the Olympic final: Kromowidjojo, Herasimenia, Halsall and Ottesen, which leaves a two horse race between Sjoestroem and Heemskerk.  Both were a class apart in the heats with a very long stroking Heemskerk recording 53.55 to Sjoestroem’s 53.66.  The rest will be competing for bronze come tomorrow evening.

And so to the mixed medley.  The jury is out on this one for the time being with opinion being split along the lines of ‘it’s exciting and fun’ or ‘it’s a bit of fun, so keep it out of the major championships’.  They do it in Triathlon so now swimming, and presumably athletics will look at it and give it a go.  It’s probably fun for the swimmers, but then a lot of things are fun, but we don’t hand out medals for them.  Or at least not in a public arena.

For the record, the finalists line up as ITA, GBR, GER, RUS, NED, SVK, FIN and AUT, with Turkey being the team eliminated from the heats.  The top teams will change for the finals, although Germany may not have much more to bring in, so we’ll sit back and enjoy the show.  But if we are to do the event, why not the mixed 4x100 free, or mixed 4x200 free, or better yet, a mixed 4x50 medley?  And why not a men’s and women’s 4x50 medley or free relay?  And why not change breaststroke to breaststroke arms and fly legs?  And why keep the 800 free?  These are all valid questions.

The men’s 1500m heats were a treat to watch.  But why were only 2 heats seeded and not 3?  Why were only 2 heats of the women’s 400IM seeded yesterday and not 3?  And why do they insult the swimmers and coaches by playing music during the heats that someone things might be a bit boring?  They did it yesterday too.  Swimmers!  Families!  Come to Berlin and watch your heroes race against the best in Europe!  It’s THAT boring we are going to play music to pass the time.

Bill Sweetenham’s idea of swimming up to 4 per nation in the heats and only 2 in the finals is inspired.  It meant that 19 year old Italian Gabriele Detti had to keep working in heat 2, and his 14.59.24 dragged along Brits Stephen Milne (20) and Jay Lelliott (19) and bronze medallist in the 400, to 15:04 and 15:06, and the hard working Slovakian Richard Nagy to a national record 15:07 and a place in a major final for the first time.  It meant that Italy’s other 19 year old, Gregorio Paltrinieri, had to keep working in heat 3 to lead the rankings with 14:54.  In the end, the third Italian, 27 year old Samuel Pizzetti, also in heat 3, couldn’t live with the pace, but heat 2 weren’t to know that.  It’s a great looking race for tomorrow night.