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European Championships Berlin, Day 7 Finals

Aug 24, 2014  - James Parrack

Day 7 Finals

The 32nd European championships belonged to Great Britain.  Top of the medal table with 9 gold among 24 medals is a huge return.  France left Budapest in 2010 with 21 medals (9 gold) and Europe gasped. Yet with 8 more medals in the kit bags from relay alternates, that is a lot of hardware heading home.  Really a lot.

Three golds on the final night went to Fran Halsall on the 50 free, Jazz Carlin on the 400m free and the men’s 4x100 medley relay.  It is the first time Britain has won this relay event and these young men stood atop the podium like Corinthians.  You could imagine them dressed in tails boarding the ship to the 1924 Paris Olympics. Athletes in the prime of life, beautiful of body and courageous of spirit they stood, shoulder to shoulder, this band of brothers, this happy few and gentlemen in England now in bed shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here! (Henry V)

Because this was a historic championships for Britain.  A world record for Adam Peaty in the 50 breast and Jazz Carlin’s 8:15.54 to rank third of all time will echo for a generation among the performances of a team here that had medals raining down upon them.  Is this the start of a golden generation or happy coincidence of the right people performing well at a weakened event?  We will find out in two years’ time but two things are sure: winning medals is difficult and Britain won more than anyone else here.  Winning medals at the Olympics is extremely difficult, but those from Europe who do are almost always the continental winners and Britain has cleared that hurdle here.

In the action, Halsall won the 50m free to see off the challenge of Sjoestroem and Ottesen, who between them had dominated the freestyle and fly events.  Ottesen started well, but once Halsall was into her stroke she was never challenged winning in 24.32 behind the Swede and the Dane.  After double sprint gold in Glasgow, Halsall as taken two titles here in the 50 back and, more importantly, the 50m free.

The men’s 50m free saw a fourth gold for the man mountain Flo Manaudou.  The Frenchman has a huge start and pulled away from the field to add the European title to his Olympic title, winning in 21.32, with Konrad Czerniak of Poland a distant second .056 seconds behind.  Ari Liukkonen won the battle for bronze with Ben Proud (GBR) by 0.01 sec.

Plymouth schoolgirl Rute Meilutyte and prohibitive favourite, won the 50m breast by a mile to complete the set of junior and senior titles at Olympics, Worlds and now Europeans.  Jennie Johansson (SWE) was 0.63sec behind and Moniek Nijhuis (NED) is probably still smiling after winning bronze.

Mireia Belmonte took her second gold of the week as the Spaniard dominated the 200m fly.  The Olympic silver medallist stopped the clock in 2:04.79 and was a shade outside the European record of Hosszu who finished third behind Belmonte’s team mate and former world junior champion, Judit Ignacio.

Laszlo Cseh has handed over the baton in the 400IM to compatriot David Verraszto.  The Hungarian has twice won silver and struck gold tonight in front of Roberto Pavoni (GBR), who added silver to the bronze he won in the 200IM.  Frederico Turrini won bronze.

Belmonte was back in for the 400m free, alongside double world champion from 09 and 11, Frederica Pellegrini.  The 26 year old Italian had said this was an event for the young and so it proved as Pellegrini finished out of the medals in a race won by 23 year old Jazmin Carlin, her second gold of the week after victory in the 800m.  Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) won the 10k and 5k team in the open water and powered past the field to finish in second. 24 year old Belmonte won an impressive bronze after her exertions in the 200m fly.  Carlin’s 4:03.24 is some way behind Ledecky’s new world record of 3:58, but then so is everyone else, but the Brit is second in this year’s world rankings behind the American.

And so to the relays and the women’s 4x100 medley was won by Denmark, who themselves have had an epic championships.  This 6th gold medal marked the first time Denmark has ever won a medal in this event of any colour, let alone gold and the faces of Nielsen, Pedersen, Ottesen and Blume will no doubt grace the pages of the newspapers and magazines (or whatever today’s equivalent is) for years to come.  Pedersen’s 1:06.07 was the pick of the breaststrokes, and Sjoestroem’s 55.47 fly helped Sweden to the silver medal.  Great Britain won bronze thanks to a 53.03 from Halsall, enough to hold on in front of another stellar 52.4 from Femke Heemskerk, as the Dutch finished fourth.

For the men, the British victory was delivered on the shoulders of Chris Walker-Hebborn, Adam Peaty’s 58.55 breaststroke, Adam Barrett’s 50.69 fly and Ben Proud.  For France, Gilot’s 47.42 was in vain, but enough to secure silver ahead of Hungary.

 Italy won the Championship Trophy for the team with most points.  But a piffling 5 gold from 15 medals is, well, not as good as Hungary even.

James Parrack is a Eurosport commentator and co-founder of the BEST Swim Centre, Mallorca