WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 8, 2010
University of Miami’s Annika Saarnak, a rising swimmer from Estonia, is among an impressive field for the LEN European Swimming Championships that begin Monday in Budapest, Hungary.
The UM senior and Estonia national record holder will compete in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events.
At the 2009 European Short Course Championships, she set the national 100-meter freestyle record in a career-best 54.78 in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I am really proud of her,” said UM coach Christie Shefchunas. “She’s been training hard all summer and I am excited to see what she does. This is definitely getting our program more international attention.”
Last season Saarnak held the top seven times in the 50 and 200 freestyles and top six fastest marks in the 100 freestyle at UM.
First-year UM assistant coach Shaun Zitani will coach her in Budapest.
The European Aquatics Championships is organized by LEN, the governing body for aquatics in Europe. The open water, diving and synchronized swimming events have already been held.
The long course pool events get under way Monday with all eyes on how swimmers adjust to the “fabric” suits now that the neck-to-ankle bodysuits have been banned since Jan. 1. It is the first major international meet since the ban.
FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu has already said the world records set with the aid of bodysuits will remain in the record books untouched and unmarked. Swimmers are already close to world-record pace according to Nory Kruchte, president of European swimming’s governing body.
“The evolution of swimming will adapt to the actual swimsuit situation,” Kruchte said during the FINA delegates meeting in January in Bangkok. “Coaches and swimmers will adapt and we will have very good performances.”
Men will be allowed only to use briefs, waist-to-knee swimsuits or jammers and women shoulder-to-knee suits made of textile fabric and not polyurethane used in the bodysuits. FINA is committed to not changing the current suit rules until after London 2012 at the earliest.
Four world records were set using bodysuits at the 2006 European Championships in Budapest while 43 world marks were broken at last year’s world championships in Rome. Nineteen of the recognized 20 European women’s records were set in Rome. Of the women’s world bests, 15 were posted in Rome.
In the 20 men’s events, 14 world and 14 European records were set.
The field is loaded with several world record holders including Paul Biedermann of Germany, Rafael Munoz of Spain, Federica Pellegrini of Italy and Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain.
Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, is the hometown favorite and looking for his third consecutive European title in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 400 IM.
Biederman, 24, told reporters in Germany that he feels “like a naked snail” without the full body suit. He broke two world records last summer with it. He also predicted no world records will be broken this week. Biederman is expected to be in the first final held Monday, the 400-meter freestyle.
Added Pellegrini, “forget the world record, there will be none. With the goodbye to suits so many things have changed. That’s fine with me. I have always been in favor of eliminating the super body.”
Adlington, a double Olympic gold medalist, will head a 35-swimmer contingent from Great Britain, coached by former U.S. national team coach Dennis Pursley. The British are determined to make waves at the 2012 London Olympics. While expected to be competitive this week, the main emphasis is on the Commonwealth Games in October in India.
Adlington and backstroke world champion Liam Tancock will wear Speedo’s LZR Racer Elite suit fully compliant with FINA’s new regulations. It is made from ultra-lightweight Pulse fabric.
Some of the most anticipated matchups for the British are Fran Halsall against Therese Alshammar, 32, of Sweden in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle; Tancock against Aschwin Wildeboer of Spain in the 50- and 100-meter backstroke; and Lizzie Simmonds against Russian Anastasia Zueva in the backstroke events.
The Brits were dealt a blow when two-time Olympian James Goddard, who leads the European rankings in the 200 backstroke and 200 IM withdrew from the championships with a flu-like virus ending a much-anticipated matchup against Cseh.
For the European Championships, the Brits did not have a training camp before the meet.
“We are not doing for Budapest what we would normally do for the Olympics and what we will do for the Commonwealth Games,” Pursley said. “We are allowing our people to arrive in staggered groups and some will come in, race and fly home. Our core group will be there throughout the week.”
A record-high 591 swimmers from 43 European countries will compete for 61 titles over seven days.
Russia swept all four categories after winning the free combination event on Sunday at the European Championships. Russia scored 98.300 points to finish ahead of Spain 97.000 and the Ukraine 94.100.
Natalia Ischenko partnered Svetlana Romashina won the synchronized pairs title.
Ischenko helped the triple Olympic champions Russia win the team title on Saturday after winning the solo title.
Ischenko and Romashina won the duo’s title with 98.700 points, knocking off reigning European pairs champions Spain (96.700), represented by Ona Carbonell and Andrea Fuentes and Ukraine’s Daria Iushko and Kseniya Sydorenko (93.400).
OPEN WATER SWIMMING
Valerio Cleri of Italy won the 25K open water title in 5 hours, 16 minutes and 38.3 seconds. Frenchman Bertrand Venturi was second 16.4 seconds out of first and Joanes Hedel, also of France, was third.
Olga Beresnyeva of Ukraine won the women’s 25-kilometer open water race in a photo finish in her 25K debut. Beresnyeva touched first to beat Angela Maurer of Germany by just 0.1 seconds, finishing in 5 hours, 48 minutes, 10.2 seconds. Martina Grimaldi of Italy was third, 20.6 seconds back.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com