Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri bettered his own 1500 metres freestyle European record in a superb display at the European championships on Wednesday, as Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte narrowly avoided defeat in the women’s 100 metres breaststroke.
The 21-year-old, who also won the world championship title last August, recorded a time of 14 minutes 34.04 seconds to lower his previous mark by over five seconds. Compatriot Gabriele Detti took the silver in 14:48.75, while Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk claimed bronze in 14:50.33.
“First of all, this time is incredible,” Paltrinieri said in a post-race interview with reporters poolside. “I can’t believe that I was able to swim here so fast as we have been working very hard in training. This is good for my confidence because my goal is a gold in Rio.”
Paltrinieri was inside world record pace for the majority of the race by maintaining even splits, but was unable to sprint enough in the last 100 metres to eclipse the long course world record of 14:31.02 set by China’s Sun Yang at the same London Aquatics Centre four years ago.
With Paltrinieri parting clear water by the first turn at 50 metres, the real battle was between Detti and Romanchuk, who continually traded the second and third positions right until the last few metres of the race, when Detti found some extra strength to surge ahead for the silver.
It was the third time that Paltrinieri has broken the European record in the men’s 1500 metres freestyle. He first set the mark at the 2014 European championships in Berlin, before bettering his record at the 2015 world championships.
Close Call for Meilutyte
Elsewhere, Lithuania’s Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte successfully defended her women’s 100 metres breaststroke crown despite nearly being caught on the final stroke.
The 19-year-old Lithuanian recorded an unusually lacklustre time of one minute 6.17 seconds to claim the gold, but second fastest qualifier Hrafnhildur Luthersdottir of Iceland almost caused a major upset by finishing only 0.28 seconds behind the world record holder in 1:06.45.
“This was pretty tight, I gave one hundred per cent,” Meilutyte told reporters. “I came directly from tough training but I really enjoyed to swim in front of these enthusiastic spectators.”
Meilutyte had turned at the halfway mark comfortably in first in 30.17 seconds compared to Luthersdottir’s 32.00, but was reeled in by the Icelandic athlete in such a way that her near two-bodylength lead at the turn had virtually disappeared by the last two metres.
Britain’s Chloe Tutton took bronze in 1:07.50, holding off Ireland’s top medal hope Fiona Doyle, who finished fourth.
In the final of the men’s 200 metres freestyle, Sebastiaan Verschuren of the Netherlands touched first in one minute 46.02 seconds, following a tough battle with Serbia’s Velemir Stjepanovic, who recorded 1:46.26.
Verschuren barely managed to overcome Stjepanovic’s slight advantage going into the last 50 metres to take the gold, while Britain’s world champion James Guy, unrested and unshaven in the middle of pre-Olympic training, claimed a hard-fought bronze in 1:46.42.