Golden day for top stars Paltrinieri, Rouwendaal and Hausding
Finally, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri managed to win a big title in open water too: the 1500m Olympic champion came first in the men’s 5km. Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands retained the gold in the women’s race. Russia doubled down the artistic swimming events scheduled for this day (solo free and team technical), while Italy grabbed one more gold in the diving pool in the mixed 3m synchro. In the men’s 1m Germany’s Patrick Hausding added another title to his already legendary collection which now stands at 16 European golds, an astonishing record, and still counting.
After years of trying, former king of the 1500m free Gregorio Paltrinieri managed to climb the podium in open water swimming. The Italian, unbeaten in the longest event between 2013 and 2017 in all majors in the pool, looked for new adventures after he completed his mission and claimed Olympic gold in Rio. However, in the previous years he could enjoy only minor successes but never earned a medal at the big events.
Now at Lupa Lake he came up with a brilliant finish in the men’s 5km race and kicked off his medal collecting campaign with a gold right away. It was a magnificent race with the top dogs setting the pace right from the beginning. Title-holder and world champion Kristof Rasovszky was leading the pack for most of the time and the Hungarian seemed to have it before they turned to the last sprint as he was ahead by a body-length. However, he could not keep his lead, had problems with the orientation, while Paltrinieri really geared up on the left wing and compatriot Dario Verani did the same on the right. Rasovszky was ‘eaten up’ by the chasers and he even missed the podium, finishing fourth, while 2017 world champion Frenchman Marc-Antoine Olivier managed to hit the panel second, while Verani could clinch the bronze – here four swimmers stormed in within 1.1sec.
The women’s race was dominated by Sharon van Rouwendaal who had enjoyed an outstanding event in Glasgow 2018 (three gold and a silver), only to go through bitter disappointments at the 2019 Worlds. In Gwangju, she almost missed the Olympic cut and left the event empty-handed. Later she changed her coach and now was back and showed that she was still the woman to beat. Indeed, she didn’t leave any chance for the others, gained 4.1sec on runner-up Giulia Gabbrielleschi while Oceane Cassignol of France came third. It was interesting that while the ladies competed in summer heat, a cold wave hitting the western borders of Hungary early morning swept through the site during the men’s race. The temperatures dropped by 10C and the male swimmers had to finish the event in heavy winds, though race ended safely.
Some 12km away, under the roof of the Duna Arena, the Russian artistic swimmers offered a couple of wonderful routines in the meantime. First their upcoming star Varvara Subbotina showed her outstanding talent – the future solo queen had all the good memories from this pool where she became junior world champion in 2018. Now she claimed her first senior title in this event – definitely not the last.
The silver went to Marta Fiedina of Ukraine, a fine addition to her gold from the solo technical, while Evangelia Platanioti also claimed another medal, a bronze after her silver – the first ones for Greece in this event since 2006.
Next came the afternoon session miracles from the Russian mermaids, this time in the team technical. Sadly, they won’t perform in the free which is always the absolute highlight in any artistic swimming competition. However, in Olympic years they usually save the very best to the big occasion, preparing their breath-taking routine in the utmost secrecy – so we have to wait (hopefully) till the summer to watch the brand new choreography. Without doubt, Ukraine deserved the silver this afternoon and Spain rightfully got the bronze.
The evening diving show brought the second gold of the day for the Italians. Chiara Pellacani and Matteo Santoro offered the most balanced performance in the mixed 3m synchro – which was a huge achievement considering that Santoro turns only 15 in October. Despite it was his first-ever Europeans, the pairs’ lowest marks were 6.5 in the whole event (appeared only twice among the scores). Germany’s Lou Massenberg and Tina Punzel held the second position throughout the event, while Russia’s Ilia Molchanov and Vitaliia Koroleva did the same mistake as their team-mates on the platform yesterday: they led after three rounds but two erroneous dives in the last two pushed them back to the third place.
The first individual men’s final lacked the usual tensions as the living legend from Germany Patrick Hausding used all his experience to stay calm and sail away with another gold medal. Once he took the lead after the third round, he expanded the gap dive by dive and retained his 1m title comfortably. His tally stands at 16 European golds as of today, a brilliant record. Jack Laugher won the prelims by a mile but the Brit was less balanced in the evening and even needed some luck to pass Italy’s Giovanni Tocci for the silver by an almost invisible difference of 0.4 points.