Italy’s Gabriele Detti broke the championship record in the men’s 400 metres freestyle final on Monday to take European championship gold and throw down the gauntlet to the world’s top long distance swimmers.
The 21-year-old clocked three minutes 44.01 seconds after a sprint finish to eclipse the 3:45.10 set by Yury Prilukov of Russia in 1984. Henrik Christiansen of Denmark took the silver in 3:46.49, while Hungary’s Peter Bernek won bronze in 3:46.80.
“I’m very happy with the gold medal,” Detti told reporters. “After the heats I had a good feeling for the final, this time is the same I clocked at the Italian nationals and this is a good sign that I’m on the right track before the Olympics.”
Detti eased into the event, turning second at the first 100 metre mark before then moving into the gold medal position for the remainder of the race, but had looked unlikely to break the record as he slipped between the necessary split times.
He nonetheless swam a blistering last 50 metres in 27.76 seconds, the fastest final split of the field, to take Prilukov’s mark and finish nearly two bodylengths ahead of Christiansen. The early leader, Serbia’s Velemir Stjepanovic, touched a distant fourth.
Elsewhere, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary defended her women’s 400 metres individual medley title and bettered her European championship record after opening up a four second lead over second place finisher Hanah Miley of Great Britain.
Hosszu’s time of four minutes 30.90 seconds was 0.07 seconds faster than her previous record set in the morning’s heats. Miley finished in a time of 4:35.27 to take silver, the first swimming medal of the championships for the hosts, while Hungary’s Zsuzsanna Jakabos came third in a 4:38.39.
“I have a great three and half years behind me, I have been enjoying every moment of the journey,” said Hosszu. “This day was also about to erase all bad memories I had from this pool (from the 2012 Olympics where she came fourth).
“Today I managed to achieve that. Also, at the European Championships I feel no pressure so my only task is to enjoy this competition.”
World and European champion Hosszu controlled the race from start to finish despite a poor reaction off the blocks, and her lead of nearly four seconds decreased only on her weaker breaststroke leg, which was incidentally Miley’s strongest.
Minutes later, Hosszu raced the second semifinal of the women’s 200 metres backstroke and qualified third fastest for Tuesday’s final to cap off an already golden day in the pool.
She is also expected to swim the 200 metres individual medley and the 100 metres in freestyle, butterfly and backstroke over the course of the Championships held at the London Aquatics Centre in Stratford to see whether the demanding schedule might work in Rio.
In the other finals of the first day at the European aquatics championships in London, favourites France secured the men’s 4×100 metres freestyle relay crown by clocking a 3:13.48 and pipping Italy in the final touch to the wall. Belgium completed the podium.
In the women’s 4×100 metres freestyle relay, meanwhile, the Netherlands, the European record holders, predictably defended their title by 3.88 seconds in a time of 3:33.80 to easily hold off a late comeback by Italy and Sweden.