European Aquatics Championships: Pellegrini defends 200 metres freestyle title to add more gold to Italian tally

European Aquatics Championships: Pellegrini defends 200 metres freestyle title to add more gold to Italian tally
By Hugo Lowell
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Italy’s Federica Pellegrini won a hard-fought victory in the women’s 200 metres freestyle on Saturday to defend her title at the European championships for a record fourth successive time.

The 27-year-old recorded a time of one minute 55.93 seconds, only 0.04 faster than second place finisher Femke Heemskerk of the Netherlands who touched in 1:55.97, while France’s Charlotte Bonnet claimed bronze in 1:56.51.

“I am happy to win the title,” Pellegrini told reporters. “Honestly, I’m a little bit surprised how things went today, I had a tough preparation before in a training camp and I didn’t expect this result at all.”

The four-lap race proved to be extremely close, with Pellegrini leaving it until the last 50 metres to mount her assault on Heemskerk, who had built up a large advantage. Pellegrini, undeterred, produced a blistering final lap to come from behind for the gold medal.

But unfortunate pre-race circumstances for Heemskerk also did her no favours, and the Dutch double Olympian rued the missed opportunity to beat Pellegrini when she, for once, had qualified better than the Italian.

“I’m very disappointed about the 0.04sec margin, it’s not the first time that I lose to Federica in a close race,” Heemskerek said. “Shortly before the race my suit tore, but stayed positive and cool. It’s not a good feeling now but I take many positives with me to the next chapter.”

Pellegrini, who holds the world record of 1:52.98 set back in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics before performance-enhancing suits were banned, is likely to face far tougher competition at the Rio Olympics which start in less than three months’ time.

Among the other international stars in the event, Pellegrini will face American aces Katie Ledecky and Melissa Franklin, behind whom she won bronze at the 2015 world championships in Kazan, Russia, as well as European championship record holder Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden.

Peaty Completes Sprint Double

Elsewhere, Britain’s Adam Peaty completed the breaststroke sprint double after he claimed the men’s 50 metres breaststroke title in addition to his 100 metres gold won earlier in the week.

Peaty, roared on by the home crowd, swam a time identical to his semifinal effort of 26.66 seconds, but missed out on bettering his world record of 26.42 he had set at the world championships last year.

Slovenia’s Peter John Stevens clocked 27.09 for the silver, while Peaty’s compatriot Ross Murdoch touched the wall in 27.31 to add a bronze medal to his silver in the 100 metres breaststroke and gold in the 200 metres breaststroke.

“My start wasn’t the best and I’m happy to post the same time as yesterday,” Peaty said. “The crowd was absolutely amazing and this is great for GB swimmers to get some confidence for the Olympics.”

Elsewhere, Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh also laid down a marker for the Rio Games with a gold and a championship record in the men’s 100 metres butterfly final on the penultimate day of competition at the London Aquatics Centre.

Cseh, a five-times Olympic medallist, recorded a season’s best of 50.86 seconds to become the first male swimmer to complete the 100 metres and 200 metres butterfly double in 21 years. Poland’s Konrad Czerniak, the championship record holder, touched second in 51.22.

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