Szabo sets WR, grabs third title like Toussaint and Sjostrom
Three swimmers grabbed their third individual titles here respectively: while this has been no surprise from the Netherlands’ Kira Toussaint (backstroke treble) and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom (100m fly added to the 50-100m free double), Szebasztian Szabo of Hungary emerged as a new star of the men’s competition. After winning the 100m fly and the 50m free, today he managed to equal the world record in 50m fly and bring down one of the last shiny ERs in the dash events. Other nations were happy to see their respective first titles here like Belorussia, thanks to Ilya Shymanovich (200m breast), Romania, courtesy of David Popovici (200m free), and Israel where Anastasya Gorbenko became the country’s first-ever short-course European champion. The Dutch enjoyed a brilliant day with six medals, they won a second gold in the 4x50m mixed free relay.
Szebasztian Szabo, born in Germany, raised in Serbia, joined the Hungarian national team in 2019 – he has Hungarian origins – made a real mark for the first time this May when he won the 50m fly at the long-course Europeans in Budapest. Indeed, this is his favorite event so even though he bagged the titles in 100m fly and the 50m free on the previous days, he always eyed today’s final where he admittedly had big plans. The two titles boosted his confidence and when he brought down Johannes Dietrich’s CR from 2009 (one of the few remaining marks from the shiny-suit era), he already hinted that he wanted the world record in the final. His brilliant start (an outstanding 0.59sec reaction time) already set up the course to achieve that and in 21.75sec he hit the wall. He beat Steffen Deibler’s shiny ER from 2009 and equaled Nicholas Santos’ WR from 2018, setting the first individual WR/ER in Kazan. ‘As usual’, next came two Italians, veteran Matteo Rivolta and next-gen Thomas Ceccon to further boost their country’s amazing total in the medal charts.
Previously, the beginning of the session brought a smaller flood of medals for the Netherlands. They claimed four in the first two events (and added one later in the fourth), thanks to a brilliant 1-2 finish by their ladies in the 100m back, then silver and bronze followed in the men’s 200m free.
While Kira Toussaint’s win – and her completion of the backstroke treble (50-100-200) – was never in doubt, just like Maaike de Waard’s second silver after the 200m, the men’s 200m free final could have gone either way among the top finishers. For a while, Stan Pijnenburg seemed to be able to cause some surprise as he led even at the 150m mark while ‘hiding’ in lane 1. But soon Romania’s David Popovici really found the top gear, just like 400m champion Luc Kroon and the title fight came down to their duel over the last 25m. Popovici’s touch was better, he won by 0.12sec, Pijnenburg held on for the bronze. Popovici, who surfaced this July in Rome where he amazed many by multiple junior record-breaking swims, claimed his first senior title at the international stage, and a first one for Romania here.
Talking about the touch, it also prevented Arno Kamminga from retaining his title in the 200m breast. The Dutch unleashed a great finish to catch up Ilya Shymanovich but the Belorussian could make a last stroke in front of the wall while the Dutch had to lean for it and this gave the title to Shymanovich by 0.01sec – a brilliant way to make up for his unexpected defeat in the 100m where he had clocked the best time in the semis but came short in the final.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom did a clean job in her pet event, gained 0.51 sec on her closest rivals in the 100m fly. Indeed on both medallists equally since we witnessed the fourth shared podium – Greece’s Anna Ntountounaki and Belorussia’s Anastasia Shkurdai was tied at the wall. It was Sjostrom’s third gold here, fourth individual medal, and fifth in total – while the other two delivered the first ones for their respective countries in the women’s events.
Soon Anastasya Gorbenko also put Israel to the medal charts – but that was a historical feat: her victory in the 200m IM marked her country’s first-ever short-course European title. She produced one of the largest winning margins of the meet over the distances up to 200m (1.24sec), ahead of Maria Ugolkova who also booked Switzerland’s first podium here. Turkey’s Victoria Gunes added a bronze to her tally after winning the 400m IM on the opening day.
And the evening finished the same way it started: the Dutch added another gold in the mixed free relay to finish the day with two titles (and six medals). They were a cut above the rest, gained 0.47sec on the Italians and the Russians – who, just to maintain a kind of tradition here, were tied for the silver. (Poland almost joined in, hit the wall with a further 0.06sec adrift.) The top three teams further cemented their respective nations’ positions on the medal chart – these countries already amassed 57 medals so far, the other nations collected 47 altogether. With today’s rush, the Dutch jumped to second place as Russia and Italy added medals but no golds today so it’s going to be a great race among these three teams on the final day which is to see 11 finals.