We’ve rounded the last turn of the 2021 European Championships and we’re on the final straightaway, as the meet will close tonight with seven individual finals and the 400 medley relays.
The first three finals will all be 50s, headlined by the women’s 50 breast where Benedetta Pilato comes in after setting a new world record in the semi-finals. Pilato swam a time of 29.30, breaking Lilly King‘s 2017 world mark of 29.40.
The 16-year-old Italian enters the final as a lock for gold, barring a disqualification, as she’s seeded almost a full second (0.95) ahead of the next-fastest qualifier, defending champion Yuliya Efimova.
The men’s 50 free and women’s 50 fly project to be close, with Kristian Gkolomeev and Melanie Henique holding the respective top seeds from the semis.
Gkolomeev, the 2018 silver medalist, will face a stacked field that includes defending champion Ben Proud and two-time winner Florent Manaudou (2014, 2016).
Kristof Milak has been on fire over the last few days, having posted the second-fastest swim in history in the 200 fly before tying and then breaking the Championship Record in the early rounds of the men’s 100 fly. He’s the odds-on favorite in that final, as is Margherita Panziera in the women’s 200 backstroke, where she’ll look to defend her title from 2018.
Milak looked very disappointed despite dominating the 100 fly semis, clearly jamming his finish, so he should have a lot more in the tank than his 50.62 from yesterday.
In the men’s 400 IM, Hungary’s David Verraszto established the top seed in this morning’s prelims in 4:13.39, putting him in prime position to win a fourth straight title. A Hungarian gold would be the country’s ninth straight in the event after Laszlo Cseh ran the table for five straight championships from 2004 to 2012.
Simona Quadarella has a chance to defend her title and complete the distance freestyle sweep in the women’s 400 free.
In the 400 medley relays, the British men will look to win a fourth consecutive European title, while the Russian women aim to go back-to-back.
Luke Greenbank, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott will form the formidable British lineup on the men’s side, though the Italian team of Thomas Ceccon, Nicolo Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi will also be dangerous.
The British women have notably opted for Anna Hopkin as their anchor leg over Freya Anderson.
Ranomi Kromowidjojo had the edge over Melanie Henique in the women’s 50 fly, getting her hands on the wall first in a time of 25.30 to win her second 50m event of the meet.
Kromowidjojo’s time falls .06 shy of her Dutch Record, 25.24, set in March. Henique, who owns the French Record of the same time (25.24), wins silver in 25.46, her second medal in the event after bronze back in 2010.
Denmark’s Emilie Beckmann won bronze in a best time of 25.59, her second straight medal and the fourth in a row for the Danes.
Anna Ntountounaki reset her Greek Record yet again for fourth in 25.65.
Sweden’s run of five straight wins comes to an end.
In the tightly contested men’s 50 free final, Finland’s Ari-Pekka Liukkonen had the power over the closing meters, inching ahead of the field to win the gold medal in a time of 21.61.
Liukkonen, 32, falls .03 shy of his National Record set in 2017, and moves into third in the world this season. The Finn was the bronze medalist back in 2014.
2018 champion Ben Proud got in for silver in 21.69, his third straight medal in the event and good for fifth in the world this season.
Kristian Gkolomeev, the top seed from the semis in 21.60, wins the bronze medal in 21.73, his second consecutive trip to the podium after a silver in 2018.
Dutchman Thom De Boer (21.80) and Frenchman Florent Manaudou (21.81) were on the outside looking in terms of the podium, with De Boer equalling his semi-final time and Manaudou going 14 one hundredths slower.
After lowering the world record in the semi-finals, 16-year-old Benedetta Pilato becomes Italy’s first-ever women’s 50 breaststroke champion with the second-fastest swim in history of 29.35.
Ida Hulkko continued the momentum created by Liukkonen for Finland, winning silver in a new Finnish Record of 30.19. Hulkko held the previous record of 30.33 from last year.
2018 winner Yuliya Efimova rounds out the podium in 30.22, edging out Great Britain’s Sarah Vasey (30.23) and Sweden’s Sophie Hansson (30.31).
After jamming his finish in the semi-finals, Kristof Milak executed everything right in tonight’s final of the men’s 100 fly, soaring to a new Hungarian and European Championship Record of 50.18.
Milak led the field at the 50 in 23.58, with teammate Szebasztian Szabo and Russian Mikhail Vekovishchev within a tenth, but pulled away from the pack on the second length, coming home in a blazing 26.60.
Milak’s time ranks as the ninth-fastest in history, and he’s also now the fourth-fastest performer of all-time, trailing only the trio of men who have cracked 50 seconds: Caeleb Dressel, Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic.
All-Time Performances, Men’s 100 Fly (LCM)
Fourth in this event in 2018, Milak came into this week with a lifetime best of 50.47, set in late March at the Hungarian Championships, and had back-to-back swims of 50.64 and 50.62 in the prelims and semis here.
Josif Miladinov, still one month away from his 18th birthday, had a huge performance to win silver in 50.93, breaking 51 seconds for the first time and lowering his Bulgarian Record of 51.08.
Miladinov is the third man to go 50-point this year, joining Milak and American Michael Andrew (50.80).
James Guy went sub-51 for the second straight evening, touching in 50.99 for bronze, and Poland’s Jakub Majerski had another 26-point back-half split (26.88) to take fourth in a new Polish Record of 51.11. The previous National Record stood for 10 years at 51.15 from Konrad Czerniak. For Guy, it’s his second consecutive bronze medal in the event.
In fifth place was Italian Federico Burdisso, who swam his second consecutive personal best time in 51.39. Burdisso went 51.66 in the semis which lowered his previous PB of 51.73 from 2018.
It’s also worth noting that Milak and Guy were the only two returners from the 2018 final.
Margherita Panziera opened up a half-second advantage on Cassie Wild on the third 50 and then assured herself the victory with a massive 31.86 closing split, successfully defended her title in the women’s 200 backstroke in a time of 2:06.08.
Panziera’s time improves on her Championship Record set in 2018 by a tenth. The Italian currently ranks second in the world this season by virtue of her 2:05.56 in late March.
Wild had a phenomenal showing, holding off Hungarian Katalin Burian on the last 50 to win silver in 2:07.74, a two-second PB and a time that makes her the third-fastest Brit in history.
Burian wins a second straight bronze in the event in 2:07.87, four tenths off her best set in 2018, and Lena Grabowski reset her Austrian Record for the third time this week in 2:08.19 for fourth.
Russian teenager Ilya Borodin grabbed the lead of the men’s 400 IM final on the backstroke leg and really asserted himself on breast, splitting 1:10.41 to set himself up for a big win in 4:10.02.
Borodin, 18, lowers his Russian, World Junior and European Junior Records of 4:11.17 set in April, and moves him up into third in the world this season.
He also effectively ends Hungary’s incredible streak of eight straight wins in the men’s 400 IM, and it’s also the first time since 1999 that Hungary doesn’t even reach the podium. Borodin also claims Russia’s first win in the event, though the former Soviet Union did claim the title in 1962, 1977 and 1981.
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