(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israel’s decade-long medal drought at the European Swimming Championships was finally brought to an end on Thursday after Guy Barnea finished third in the 50-meter backstroke final in Budapest.
The 22-year-old, who came within four hundredths of a second of a medal in the same event two years ago, clocked a time of 25.04 seconds on Thursday to become just the fourth Israeli, and the first since 2000, to scale the podium at the long-course Europeans.
“I feel as if I didn’t make any mistakes today,” said Barnea, who followed in the footsteps of previous medal winners Eitan Urbach (1997 and 1999), Miki Halika (1999) and Yoav Gath (2000). “As I swam in lane 2, there was not a lot of pressure on me, and I could fully focus on myself. I wanted to surprise the big guns because I wasn’t one of the favorites.
“All the years of training came down to 25 seconds in which you can’t make a mistake, and all the hard work is worthwhile when you experience such a moment.”
Camille Lacourt of France won the 50-meter backstroke final and narrowly missed out on becoming the first swimmer to set a world record in the post-bodysuit era.
The 30th edition of the European championships is the first major international event where competitors can no longer wear the neck-to-ankle outfits that helped set dozens of world records in recent years.
Lacourt’s winning time of 24.07 seconds was just 0.03 seconds outside the mark set by Liam Tancock of Britain, who finished second.
“I have to admit that I aimed at the world record, but 24.07 is a very decent time,” Lacourt said of his new meet record. “I will discuss the areas where I still can improve with my coach, but there is for sure a lot to be done to better my start.”
Lacourt had the second-slowest reaction time at the start, 0.74 seconds.
Israel’s Amit Ivri will race her second final of the championships on Friday after advancing in the 100m butterfly. The 21-year-old, who finished eighth in the 50m fly final earlier in the week, touched the wall after 58.64s in Thursday’s semifinals, progressing from fifth place overall.
Meanwhile, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary beat compatriot Evelyn Verraszto in a thrilling finish to the women’s 200- meter individual medley final on a successful day for the host nation.
Hosszu finished in 2:10.09, a new meet record. Verraszto was a mere 0.01 seconds behind, with Britain’s Hannah Miley in third.
Camille Muffat of France, who set the previous meet record in qualifying, led for three laps before fading to fourth.
“I can’t even express how happy I am,” said Hosszu, the event’s European record holder, who was second in the 400 medley on Monday. “I heard a few spiteful comments saying I was just a ‘bodysuit swimmer,’ but now I’ve shown that I’m not.”
In Thursday’s last race, Hosszu and Verraszto combined to help Hungary win its third gold of the session, teaming up with Agnes Mutina and Eszter Dara to win the 4x200 freestyle relay in 7:52.49. France was second, with Britain third.
“What a day for Hungarian swimming. The fantastic crowd gave me wings,” Hosszu said.
Earlier, Daniel Gyurta gave Hungary its second gold, winning the 200
breaststroke in 2:08.95, a new meet record. Norway’s Alexander Dale Oen
took silver, 0.73 seconds behind Gyurta and Hugues Duboscq of France
Gemma Spofforth and Elizabeth Simmonds made it a British 1-2 in the
women’s 100 backstroke, with Germany’s Jenny Mensing in third.
“This was another great day for the British team,” said Spofforth, who
was second behind Simmonds in Tuesday’s 200 backstroke. “It shows that
we are in good shape for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.”
Lotte Friis of Denmark won the women’s 800 freestyle in 8:23.27,
followed at 0.73 seconds by Ophelie Cyriell Etienne of France and
Federica Pellegrini of Italy, 1.72 seconds back.