First individual title for Popovici, two golds for Padar, Tuncel medals in two individual finals
Home hero David Popovici retained his title from last year with ease in the men’s 200m free in front of a capacity crowd of 2000 in Bucharest, on the second day of the European Junior Swimming Championships. Three more swimmers achieved the same feat, Hungary’s Nikolett Padar (200m free), Turkey’s Merve Tuncel (1500m free), and Poland’s Krzysztof Chmielewski (200m fly). Tuncel also had a bronze in the 200m free, while Padar added another gold in the mixed free relay where the Hungarians pipped the home quartet for the title despite another 47.34 blast from Popovici in the opening leg. Ukraine’s Volodymyr Lisovets won the most thrilling final so far, in the 50m breast 0.07sec separated the first three.
A rare scene at junior meets in any aquatic discipline: the stands were fully packed in Bucharest on the second day of the meet. Even Romania’s legendary tennis player Ion Tiriac showed up (his foundation is one of the main partners of the championships). The 2000 fans were eager to see the nation’s new phenomenon David Popovici who went for his first individual title here in the 200m free final.
Indeed, he was a sure bet and guaranteed the celebrations for the crowd – the sky should have come down to prevent the reigning senior world champion from winning this event. And Popovici delivered in style, he didn’t let any room for doubt, it was a start-to-finish lead and win for him, in 1:45.45, 2.26sec faster than runner-up Lorenzo Galossi of Italy.
The women’s final offered something similar as the defending champion Nikoletta Padar of Hungary controlled the race for all the 200m and hit the wall a full second faster than her rivals.
In the dash finals France’s Mary-Andre Moluh continued the series of dominant victories, she set a new Championship record (27.74) in the 50m back. The men’s champion Ksawery Masiuk copied the feat, the World Championships bronze medallist from Poland gained 0.56sec on the runner-up (Moluh won by 0.57), a large winning margin over one length of the pool.
Eleni Efimova also ‘killed the party’ in the women’s 50m breast, the Estonian was 0.87 faster than the field – so after taking a full set of medals from Rome from the three breaststroke events (was third over this distance), now she is set to make a possible treble here.
Ukraine’s Volodymyr Lisovets copied Efimova’s feat by stepping forward from the third position taken in Rome to the top spot here. Though this race was the first real thriller on Day 2, it all came down to the last stroke and the touch. The top three stormed to the wall in a span of 0.07sec and Lisovets was the luckiest, touching out the Netherlands’ Koen de Groot by 0.03, while Serbian Uros Zivanovic came further 0.04sec adrift.
In the 200m fly it was the twin’s time once more. The Chmielewski brothers ruled the field, just like in Rome, leaving no chance for the others – again, Krzysztof bettered Michal, this time by 1.19sec (last year ‘only’ 0.8 were the difference). The champion’s feat is even more remarkable as he also swam in the morning and clocked by far the best time in the heats of the 1500m free.
And there was a fourth successful title defence today: after Popovici, Padar, and Chmielewski, Turkey’s Merve Tuncel also repeated her win from Rome 2021 in the women’s 1500m free – though this time she was far from her junior ER set a year ago (15:55 then, 16:13.28 now). It was understandable, though, as she raced in Budapest, and also swam in the 200m free final at the beginning of the session where she took the bronze.
The session-ending mixed free relay heated up the place once again, especially after Popovici produced an even bigger blast than a day before, a 47.34 in the first leg in the mixed free relay (again: he had won the senior world title with 47.58). However, this time the initial advantage wasn’t enough: the Hungarian girls’ low 54sec splits were unmatchable for the hosts, so the Magyars claimed the gold. It was the second one for Nikolett Padar, whose 54.28 was by far the best female split in the final, and the anchor, Dora Molnar also bested the others, her 54.49 was a full second faster than the rest of the field, and 2.02 better than the hosts’ last split.
For detailed results, visit: http://ejcotopeni2022.microplustiming.com
Press release from LEN, photos courtesy of LEN/Simone Castrovillari