Great Britain won two gold medals and Daniel Wiffen became the first Irish swimmer to claim a European short-course title on a thrilling first night of finals in Otopeni, Romania.
Abbie Wood opened a golden night for Britain in the women’s 400m individual medley with the men’s quartet winning the 4x50m freestyle relay for the first time.
Wiffen dismantled the field in the men’s 400m freestyle with Sweden enjoying a clear victory in the women’s 4x50m freestyle relay.
Noe Ponti set a Championship record of 48.61 in the men’s 100m butterfly semifinal, lowering Evgeny Korotyshkin’s standard of 48.93 which had stood since 2009.
HISTORIC ONE-TWO FOR BRITAIN
The action got under way at the Aquatics Complex of Otopeni with the women’s 400m individual medley final.
Freya Colbert and Wood were in the centre lanes and they were first and third respectively at halfway with Zsuzsanna Jakabos of Hungary splitting the British pair.
Wood pulled well clear on the breaststroke leg and came home in four minutes 27.45 seconds for her first senior international individual title.
She also became only the second British woman and the first since Hannah Miley in 2012 to win 400IM gold.
Colbert made it a British one-two in 4:29.04 with Ellen Walshe of Ireland third in 4:29.64.
Wood said: “I’m really happy with this gold. I really had to hold my nerve over the first 200 because I start going from the backstroke and we have five strong backstrokers here.
“I’m happy that I’ve managed to pull it off and I was near to my best so I’m really happy.”
Loughborough training partner Colbert added: “It was good, I really enjoy racing with the girls I train with from time to time.
“We are pushing each other and it’s also interesting to know exactly what the others are doing.”
Walshe – who won silver at the 2021 World Short Course Championships – said: “It’s a great success for Ireland, the first medal of many here we’re hoping for.
“I don’t win international medals every day so this one is definitely up there with the world short-course medal. It would have been better to swim the time I did two years ago but I’m in hard training now to get ready for Paris.”
RELAY GOLD IN RECORD TIME
Britain set a national record of 1:23.81 in the 4×50 freestyle prelims and changed the line-up for the final with Ben Proud replacing Duncan Scott.
Proud – winner of the world, Commonwealth and European 50m freestyle titles in 2022 – led off in 20.56 to hand over to Matt Richards with Britain ahead.
Richards split 20.50 and Alexander Cohoon went 20.99 before Lewis Burras anchored them home in the fastest split in the field of 20.47 as they set their second British record of the day in 1:22.52.
It was the first gold in the event for Britain with Proud saying: “Britain has never really been a sprinting nation, we’ve struggled to put four 50m guys together.
“But in recent years a couple of good guys came up, all of a sudden, so today’s effort was incredible from the team.
“That was good not just for this competition and for the 4x50m but also for these guys who are going for the qualification in the 4x100m at the Olympics.
“We are happy and I’m sure the guys are also happy with themselves. It’s new for us to be here and competing with the Italians who have always been good in this event. As for the team, it’s a great start for this meet.”
Italy were second in 1:23.14 with Greece claiming their first relay medal at the European Short Course Championships in 1:23.27.
WIFFEN WRITES A LINE IN THE HISTORY BOOKS
The men’s 400m freestyle promised to be a thriller with Danys Rapsys looking to reclaim the title he won at Glasgow 2019.
The Lithuanian led after 100m before Wiffen moved into first at the 150m mark, extending his lead to a body-length by 250m.
The Irish swimmer came home in a three-second personal best and national record of 3:35.47, 2.33secs ahead of Rapsys (3:37.80) and Belgium’s Lucas Henveaux.
Wiffen – who will also compete in the 800m and 1500m freestyle – said: “The 400m is usually not on my schedule so to win it is amazing and a good sign what can happen in my other events.
“The race went according to plan. I geared up for the second half as I’m a distance swimmer, so this is the approach I take in my main events and this one wasn’t different either.”
Rapsys – who came from fourth at the final turn to take silver – added: “It’s good to be second though my time could have been a bit better.”
Henveaux – who trains with Wiffen at Loughborough – said: “I saw my teammate Dan really go for it from the beginning and I thought I might have a bad race here but with 25m to go I recognised that we are pretty much in the same line with the others.
“So, I really went for it, put my head down and went for the touch.
“I was lucky enough to finish third by one-tenth of a second. I’m happy with my time and it’s great to stand on the podium together with these guys.”
GOLD FOR SWEDEN
Denmark led after the first 50 with fastest qualifiers Britain second and Sweden third.
A second leg of 23.29 by Michelle Coleman propelled the Swedes into first with Louise Hansson (23.95) and Sofia Aastedt (24.05) guiding them to a comprehensive victory in 1:35.60.
Coleman said: “I’m just really happy how we went out and raced really fast. Each of us did a really good individual leg.
“That’s what relays are all about, you go and do your part and that builds together to get a good result.”
Italy moved from fifth at the final changeover to second in 1:36.92 thanks to a 24.12 anchor leg by world and European junior medallist Sara Curtis.
Britain were third in 1:37.19.
PONTI RECORD HEADLINES SEMIFINALS
Ponti’s championship record in the second semifinal of the 100m butterfly followed Maxime Grousset’s 48.94 French mark in the first to set up a fascinating final on Wednesday.
Beryl Gastaldello headed the women’s 50 free semis in 23.77, 0.01 ahead of Coleman.
Tes Schouten led the way into the women’s 100m breaststroke final, the Netherlands swimmer booking lane four in 1:04.02, with Estonian 16-year-old Eneli Jefimova 0.01 adrift in 1:04.03.
Mewen Tomac of France was the only man inside 23secs in the 50m backstroke in 22.91.
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