Ben Proud became the second-fastest man in history when he set a European short-course 50m freestyle record of 20.18 seconds in Otopeni.
The Briton was just 0.02secs outside Caeleb Dressel’s 20.16 world record as he took 0.08secs from the European standard of 20.26 held by Florent Manaudou since December 2014.
It was the second European record of the meet so far following Noe Ponti’s 48.47 in the 100m butterfly on Wednesday.
Great Britain lead the medal table after day three with four golds, three silvers and three bronze medals ahead of France (three golds, five silvers, one bronze) and Sweden (three golds and a bronze).
RIVALS PAY TRIBUTE AFTER PROUD BLAST
Proud arrived in Otopeni without a European short-course gold to his name having won 50 free silver and 50m butterfly bronze at Copenhagen 2017.
He led off the British quartet that won the 4x50m freestyle title and the 29-year-old looked ominous through the rounds.
In the final he split 9.64/10.54 while also lowering Vladimir Morozov’s Championship record of 20.31 set in 2017.
Proud, who is guided by James Gibson, has now won World and European long and short-course titles as well as Commonwealth gold.
The only medal missing from his extensive collection is an Olympic one.
He is the second British man to have won the 50 free short-course title with Mark Foster victorious on six occasions.
Proud said: “It was beyond my expectations. I wanted to do a PB, going beyond is great.
“I just loved the process leading here, the mindset, what I’m learning about myself.
“And to get a title in this tough competition is feeling great.”
Manaudou and defending champion Szebasztian Szabo shared silver in 20.74.
The Frenchman – who also won silver at Glasgow 2019 – said: “I’m super-happy with this silver as based on my performance in the heats and the semis I didn’t expect anything like this, I just wanted to enjoy the final.”
The 2012 Olympic champion paid tribute to Proud, saying: “I knew Ben would be really fast, though not that fast, I thought he would make 20.3, 20.4, congrats for this amazing record.
“For me, it’s a great feeling to add another medal to my collection and to stand on the podium with these guys.”
Szabo echoed Manaudou’s sentiments, saying: “We’ve been training together with Ben (Proud) recently and I can tell you there wasn’t such a gap that time – so he was really fast today and he clocked an astonishing record, credit to him.
“ I’m more than happy with this silver, I’d say I’m on the right track after the disappointment in Fukuoka (2023 World Championships).
“The first 25m was better in the semis, now the second 25m was great, but this is the dash, you really need to put it together in short-course. More or less, it was OK after all.”
WIFFEN GOES THIRD ALL-TIME IN 1500 FREE
Daniel Wiffen delivered a masterclass in distance swimming in the 1500 free and was 1.18secs inside Florian Wellbrock’s world record at halfway before it slipped away from 900m.
However, the Irishman completely dominated the race and enjoyed a winning margin of 12.67secs when he got his hand to the wall in 14 minutes 09.11 seconds.
That elevated him to third all-time behind Wellbrock and his world record of 14:06.88 and Gregorio Paltrinieri’s 14:08.06 from the 2015 European short-course.
It was his second gold in as many races with the 800m to come in which he is the European record-holder in both the long and short-course titles.
Wiffen – the first Irish swimmer to win European short-course titles – said: “I’m very happy, this was a fast time, I’ve taken five seconds off my PB.
“I swam my own race, I didn’t think of the world record, I hoped it was going to be close at the end.
“Anyway I’m happy with the time, third-fastest ever which is pretty cool.”
David Aubry and Mykhailo Romanchuk finished in 14:21.78 and 14:22.18 respectively for silver and bronze.
KOHLER JOY AFTER MAIDEN VICTORY
Angelina Kohler led throughout to win the women’s 200m butterfly in 2:03.30 to claim Germany’s first gold of the meet and second overall.
It was Kohler’s first senior international medal and she could scarcely absorb her achievement.
“This is incredible, this is three seconds better than my best time before the championship,” she beamed.
“I cut 1.5 in the semis, another 1.5 this time… Amazing, the win, the time, my first international medal, a gold – it’s unbelievable!”
Helena Rosendahl Bach of Denmark took silver in 2:03.86 with Lana Pudar setting a European Junior record of 2:04.55 for bronze.
HARRIS LEADS HOME BRITISH 1-2
Medi Harris is best known as a 100m backstroker having claimed European and Commonwealth medals to her name.
Before Wednesday she had never raced the 200m backstroke in international waters.
Now though, she is the European champion having led throughout to touch in a Welsh record of 2:02.45.
Teammate Katie Shanahan took silver in 2:03.22 to make it a British 1-2 with Pauline Mahieu third in 2:03.90.
Harris – who is coached by Dave Hemmings at Loughborough Performance Centre after switching from Swansea – said: “This was really good.
“I’m doing this event for the first time in three years and I’m really grateful for my coach for pushing me today, I’ve couldn’t have achieved this performance without him.
“Obviously, we are focusing on times but at the moment, especially going into an Olympic year, it’s also about gaining confidence.
“If you’d told me a year ago that I would be here swimming the 200m back like this, I wouldn’t have believed you. So it was a great push before next year.”
KAMMINGA HAPPY TO BE BACK ON TOP
Arno Kamminga won the first individual titles of his career at Glasgow 2019 where he claimed the 100/200m breaststroke double.
Since then, the Netherlands swimmer has won medals in the Olympic, world and European pools, both long and short-course.
The Netherlands swimmer was sixth at the final turn in the 100m breaststroke but a final 25 of 14.96 propelled him past the field and into the wall in 56.52.
The double Olympic silver medallist had to contend with illness and burnout in 2022 which led to him missing his winter block of training.
He went on to win 100m silver in an historic three-way tie with Nicolo Martinenghi and Nic Fink at the 2023 World Championships and now gold in Otopeni.
He said: “It’s great to be back after four years and winning again.
“I had a hard time: first it was hard to take a step back from swimming and watch the others from the sideline and even if I wanted to race my body said no.
“Then I returned, trained hard but the results did not come for a while – so now it’s great to achieve this, to be on the top of the podium.”
Martinenghi won silver in 56.57 with Kamminga’s training partner Caspar Corbeau third in 56.66.
TOP TWO FOR FRANCE
Superb breaststroke and freestyle legs guided Charlotte Bonnet to the 100IM title in 57.47.
Beryl Gastaldello was second in 57.67 for a French 1-2 with Louise Hansson claiming third in 58.33.
“I didn’t expect this as I thought Beryl and Lousie would be faster than me,” said Bonnet.
“I’m really happy with this swim and it’s a good lead-up for the 200m IM which I swim tomorrow.”
SWEDEN WIN MEDLEY RELAY
Michelle Coleman won her third gold as she anchored Sweden to victory in the women’s 4x50m medley relay in 1:43.26.
The quartet were led off by Louise Hansson in 26.47 who handed over to sister Sophie for the breaststroke leg (28.96) and Sara Junevik on the butterfly (24.76) with Coleman coming home in 23.07, the fastest split in the field.
It was Sweden’s second relay gold following victory in the 4x50m freestyle.
Sophie Hansson said: “We are really happy to do really fast splits and get the title. This is a good start for the build-up to the Olympics and it’s always great to swim for the team.”
Italy were second in 1:43.97 with Great Britain third in 1:44.67.
Tes Schouten led the way in the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:16.98, a new Dutch record.
Anna Hopkin headed the 100 free semis in 51.70, the only woman inside 52secs and Louise Hansson booked lane four for the 50 back in 26.23.
Olympic silver medallist Duncan Scott was comfortably the swiftest into the 200IM final in 1:51.90 from which 10-time World short-course medallist Thomas Ceccon was disqualified.
French pair Mewen Tomac – the 50 back gold medallist – and Yohann Ndoye Brouard booked lanes four and five in the 100 back in 50.01 and 50.19 respectively.
Ponti – fresh from his European 100 fly record – is in pole position in the 200, clocking 1:51.79.
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