Amazing day for Turkey but David Popovici stole the show
While Turkey enjoyed its best-ever day at a major age-group swimming event by collecting a gold, a silver and a bronze medal, it was Romaniaâ€™s David Popovici who had the biggest blast on the opening day of the European Junior Swimming Championships in Rome.
Popovici clocked 47.56sec over the first leg of the free relay to set a new junior WR, grabs the 4th spot in the senior world ranks in 2021. Popovici already hit the fifth gear in the morning as he swam 48.32 in the first leg in the relay, a new Championship Record, but in the evening session, he stormed to a new junior World Record (bettered Russiaâ€™s Andrei Minakovâ€™s previous best by 0.01sec) and even more importantly, with this time he sits on the 4th place in the senior world ranks in 2021. This effort would also have earned him the bronze medal at the European Aquatics Championships in May in Budapest. All in all, itâ€™s the 18th best time ever and the 10th best ever in textile.
The advantage he built over the first leg was almost enough to earn the gold for the Romanian relay as the other swimmers could barely go under 50sec and few could produce 49sec or better splits. But in the homecoming leg, Vladimir Reznichenko came up with a fine 48.90sec swim and secured the title for the Russians, 0.27sec ahead of the Romanians who could hold off the Polish by 0.03sec for the silver.
In fact, that was the only final without a Turkish medallist as the other three all brought some silverware for the nation. Batuhan Filiz kicked off the party with a great win in the menâ€™s 400m free, ahead of Jovan Lekic of Bosnia-Hercegovina â€“ a rare pairing for the 1-2 positions in swimming but development programs all over Europe seem to start bearing fruits in more and more countries.
Soon Deniz Ertan finished runner-up in the womenâ€™s 400m IM â€“ a great feat as unlike her rivals, she also had an 800m free in the morning (came third but the other two Turks finished ahead of her so she couldnâ€™t make the final). Still, she finished strong to gain silver despite falling behind in the middle of the race. Catching Kathie Shanahan was never a realistic option as the Brit was dominant throughout the race and won easily. Anastasia Sorokina delivered a bronze for Russia from lane 1.
And Ertan was part of Turkeyâ€™s bronze medal winning 4x200m free relay in the last event of the session. They needed some â€˜helpâ€™ from the Italians whose erroneous takeover cost them third place. Here Hungary regained the top spot after a smaller break: the Magyars claimed three triumphs in a row between 2016 and 2018, did not make the podium in 2019 but came back strong for this edition. Their balance was amazing, all four swimmers clocked 2min splits with a couple of tenths in difference and no others could match those efforts, Russia came a distant second to clinch another relay medal.
Batuhan Filiz (TUR), winner of the 400m free â€œIâ€™m overjoyed about my result, this is my first gold and Iâ€™m really happy to win it here in Rome. Itâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve raced in this pool. Also, this is a personal best for me, a fine confirmation of getting in a good shape for the Olympics.â€
Katie Shanahan (GBR), winner of the 400m IM â€œIâ€™m really happy about todayâ€™s victory, Iâ€™ve done my best. I really didnâ€™t expect to win. Iâ€™m excited to swim in this pool, it is the first time for me. Now I have to focus on the 200m IM on Friday.â€
David Popovici (ROU), silver in the 4x100m free, set new junior WR â€œIâ€™ve been in Rome before, so Iâ€™m happy to be back and to clock this time and also to sign a new relay record and a medal with my teammates.â€
Bettina Fabian (HUN), gold in the 4x200m free relayÂ â€œQuite a way to start these championships! We didnâ€™t expect this result and we especially didnâ€™t expect to win and especially not by that big margin. We worked hard to get here and I think everyone gave her best, so all of us can be really proud of ourselves.â€
Press release from LEN, photos courtesy of Deepbluemedia/G. Scala