Italy, Hungary open strong, three medals apiece
Italy and Hungary got a flying start on the opening day of the swimming competition at the European Aquatics Championships in the London Aquatics Centre by clinching three medals apiece. Gabriele Detti (ITA) and Katinka Hosszu (HUN) captured the individual golds on offer, and both nations got two more medals. In the free relays the Netherlands and France finished atop, both with quite convincing performances.
Four years ago, in this pool, Katinka Hosszu aimed to clock a 4:30 time and finally earn an Olympic medal on the opening day in the 400m IM – but in the end she left empty-handed: the Hungarian finished 4th at the Olympics and heard the most dreadful sentence of her life from her then-coach in the team area when she asked, ‘what’s next?’. ‘Open a beauty salon in Budapest,’ was the answer and the Hungarian swimmer felt the utmost bitterness at that very moment. Soon she was set to quit but her boyfriend (now her husband and coach) Shane Tusup saved her – ultimately for swimming. If she had clinched the silver then – the times she clocked today in the heats (4:30.97) and in the final (4:30.90), both with ease, would have been more than enough to come second in 2012 – her journey might have been different.
But the mental process required to bounce back made her tough, and today the Iron Lady showed something extraordinary: two Championship records in the 400m IM, her third straight title, plus two great swims in the 200m back, the second one in the semis, just 15 minutes after the 400m IM final. She is set to do something big on Tuesday when she will switch back to top gear for the backstroke as well.
In the medley, the hosts also celebrated their first medal, courtesy of Hannah Miley, while the other Hungarian, Zsuzsanna Jakabos, came third.
Italy’s Gabriele Detti managed to step forward, after clinching bronze medals in Berlin 2014 (800m, 1500m), silvers and bronzes at the short-course Europeans (came second in 2012 and third in 2015 in this event) now he finished atop at a big event, for the first time in his career. And he did it in style, with a seemingly effortless swim, setting a Championship record, gaining 2:48sec on the field. Causing a pleasant surprise even for himself, Norway’s Henrik Christiansen captured the silver, while Peter Bernek (HUN) out-touched Felix Auboeck (AUT) for the bronze by 0.07sec.
In the relays the Dutch women team returned to the throne after eight long years. With a couple of 52sec legs in the mix – the only ones in the final – their win was never in danger. The battle for the silver favoured Italy, who hit the wall 0.16sec ahead of the Swedes.
Among the men, the French quartet retained their title. This was a more exciting race but in the end their winning margin was 0.81sec. The fight for the minor spoils was tremendous, though. Three teams arrived at the wall in a span of 0.13sec, the Italians edged out the Belgians by 0.01 sec for the silver, though Pieter Timmers (BEL) swam like hell on the anchor leg. He had the biggest blast in the final, 47.37, which brought his team from fourth place to third (almost second), to the sadness of the Greeks who nearly caused an upset by reaching the podium.
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