2017 European Short Course Swimming Championships, Copenhagen (DEN)
Golden finish for Sjostrom and the Italians
Three titles in two hours secured a worthy end of the magnificent season of Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom. Italy also clinched three golds on the closing day which helped them to retain the Championship Trophy. Russia topped the medal table with nine golds as their medley relay crowned the meet in the Royal Arena by winning the men’s title with a new world record.
Sarah Sjostrom’s season ended in style: the Swedish superstar, who already earned the best female swimmer’s award from FINA after her glorious summer, finally captured gold in Copenhagen too. Three in a single session, in fact. After slight struggles in her earlier events, including a bowing-out from the 50m fly final, she stroke gold in her trademark event, the 100m fly, drew luck to her side in the 50m free and helped Sweden to an unexpected triumph in the women’s medley relay.
In the fly she was a cut above rest, claimed her third straight title by a 0.97sec winning margin. The 50m free was the usual tight affair between Sjostrom and Ranomi Kromowidjojo – two years ago the Dutch out-touched the Swede by 0.07sec in Netanya, this time the tiniest gap possible (0.01) separated them but it favoured Sjostrom here. Then came the medley relay where Sjostrom rocketed Sweden in front over the fly leg and they kept the advantage till the end.
Italians also had something to cheer for in the closing session. The previous two days saw a great medal boost, Italians earned eight on Friday and Saturday in total but none of them were gold (four silver and bronze respectively). However, on Sunday they made up the missed ones, rushed to three back-to-back titles which helped them to clinch Championship Tropgy once again.
Luca Dotto did a clean job and retained Italy’s title in the 100m free – the 2015 winner Marco Orsi, after a sickness-forced transformation, came first in the 100m IM. Then came an upset as Simone Sabbioni denied Russia’s teenage sensation Kliment Kolesnikov’s backstroke triple by out-touching him in the 50m back by 0.02sec.
The young Russian, winner of the 100m and 200m titles, got some consolation soon in the men’s 4x50m medley relay when he was 0.3sec faster in the opening leg than he was in the individual final, clocking a way better time and posting another junior world record. The relay cracked the senior world record, securing a worthy ending to the meet.
This crowned the Russians’ performance too: just as in the last edition in Denmark (Herning 2013) they topped the medal table. Another gold was delivered by Aleksandr Kharlanov in the 200m fly where title-holder Laszlo Cseh came only fifth, leaving the Royal Arena empty-handed (for him Denmark brought bad luck as Herning and Copenhagen are the only events in his 15 year-long carrier where he didn’t win any medals).
Hungary came second behind the Russians with a slightly weaker medal-haul than they achieved in Netanya which had put them atop in 2015. Though the 6-time champion Katinka Hosszu enjoyed a rest day, the Magyars still celebrated a victory, courtesy of Boglarka Kapas. The four-time European champion of London 2016 left behind her ‘short-course demons’ and finally stepped on the top of the podium for the first time in her career. She won a fine duel against the 800m victor Sarah Koehler (GER) in the 400m free. History was made in this event as Julia Hassler got the first-ever major international medal for Liechtenstein by finishing third.
Spain also got its first gold after Jessica Vall Montero won the women’s 200m breast. Former ruler of the event, Rikke Moller Pedersen heated up the stands by clinching silver – and the capacity crowd of 6,500 also loudly cheered for the bronze-medal winning swim of Pernille Blume in the 50m free and the Danish medley relay’s silver. The hosts finished with 3 silvers and 4 bronzes – though in the pool they didn’t earn gold but at the stands, the future generation got two: Adam Peaty’s generous gesture on the previous day was repeated by Sarah Sjostrom who also gave one of her golds to an amazed youngster in the front rows, setting a kind of tradition for inspiring the future generations.
Copenhagen will be remembered for this and several other reasons as the event goes down as one of the best ever in LEN history. European Aquatics now head to Glasgow, site of the following long-course Europeans in August 2018 and the next short-course Europeans in December 2019.
Press release from LEN, photos courtesy of Deepbluemedia / Giorgio Scala