WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 12, 2010
Frenchman Camille Lacourt came close to becoming the first swimmer to set a world record in the post high-tech bodysuit era Thursday night at the LEN European Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Lacourt won the men’s 50-meter backstroke and broke his own meet record in 24.07, just off Liam Tancock’s world record of 24.04 set at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, Italy.
Lacourt moved to second on the all-time event list, moving from his No. 3 ranking time of 24.30, then a meet record set earlier in the meet.
It was France’s fourth gold medal of the meet. Lacourt won the 100 backstroke on Tuesday in a European record 52.11, the first record set since the high-tech bodysuits were banned in January.
Tancock was second in 24.70 and Guy Barnea of Israel was third in 25.04.
Also at the Alfred Hajos Pool Complex in front of a partisan crowd, fans were on their feet when Hungarians Katinka Hosszu and Daniel Gyurta won gold in the 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter breaststroke.
Hosszu won the women’s 200-meter individual medley in 2:10.09 while teammate Evelyn Verraszto was second just 0.01 seconds behind in 2:10.10. Britain’s Hannah Miley was third in 2:10.89.
Gyurta, the world champion, won the men’s 200-meter breaststroke in a meet record 2:08.95, ahead of Norway’s Alexander Dale Oen who finished second in 2:09.68. Frenchman Hugues Duboscq was third in 2:11.03.
“Daniel is king of the 200-meter breaststroke,” Dale Oen said. “He was so strong and simply unbeatable today. I have to train differently for the 200 to get faster. The 200 is always a beast for me.”
The Hungarian women’s 800-meter freestyle relay had the fans standing on their feet again when it nipped France in a thrilling finish for the gold medal, 7:52.49-7:52.69. The relay team of Agnes Mutina, Ezster Dara, Katinka Hosszu and Eveyln Verraszto gave Hungary another gold to cheer about to end a perfect night of swimming.
Earlier, Great Britain won its fourth gold medal when world champion Gemma Spofforth of the University of Florida won the 100-meter backstroke in 59.80 finishing ahead of teammate Elizabeth Simmonds in 1:00.19. Jenny Mensing of Germany was third in 1:00.72.
“It was a hard race but it’s good to come out the best,” Spofforth said. “I would have preferred two golds, but you’ve got to share them.”
Poland won it first gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly when defending champion Pawel Korzeniowski won in 1:55. Russia’s Nikolay Skvortsov was second and former champion Ioannis Drymonakos of Greece was third.
Danish world champion Lotte Friis won the women’s 800-meter freestyle in 8:23.27.
“Today I was as fast as when I won bronze in Beijing (8:23.03) and that after the return to textile suits,” Friis said.
Ophelie Cyrielle Etienne of France was second in 8:24.00 and Federica Pellegrini was third in 8:24.99. Teenager Grainee Murphy, 17, of Ireland was fourth in a career-best 8:25.04, just missing out on a medal.
In her first final of the week, British Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington was a surprising seventh in 8:27.48. Adlington said she is focusing more on the Commonwealth Games in India in October.
“It was an amazing swim, to finish fourth in my first Europeans is just incredible,” Murphy said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I was just going in there to go as well as I could.”
Swim Ireland has not had a swimmer in the final of the European Championships in more than a decade.
Swim Ireland High Performance Director Peter Banks said it was “one of the greatest performances by a young Irish athlete” and has become an inspiration to top juniors in Ireland.
“It’s the best performance by an Irish swimmer in years because you had the Olympic champion and world champion in the race as well as other world record holders,” Banks said. “It should be a real inspiration to all.”
Annika Saarnak, a University of Miami senior swimmer and Estonia national record holder, was 26th overall in the 100-meter butterfly heats. She finished in 1:01.34.
Earlier in the week, Saarnak finished 22nd in the 50-meter butterfly in 27.69 and was 52nd in the 100-meter freestyle 58.82. Saarnak’s final event will be the 50 freestyle on Saturday.
A record-high 591 swimmers from 43 European countries are competing for 61 titles in the championships that end on Sunday.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com.