Grand opening: Dutch double and thrilling finishes
The Netherlands kicked off the party in style in Kazan by claiming an individual and a relay gold on the opening day. The first title went to Turkey’s Victoria Gunes in the women’s 400m IM, she won a thriller by 0.03sec. Host Russia also clinched its first win, while Italy earned four medals in the evening.
The meet couldn’t have been started in any more thrilling way: the medallists of the women’s 400m IM were separated by 0.02sec with a shared silver – it was an amazing finish in anybody’s language.
Turkey’s Viktoria Gunes, after going through some ups but mostly downs since 2015 when she had seemed to make a breakthrough at the junior Worlds in Singapore, managed to pull away over her beloved breaststroke leg and she was well set to claim the title. However, Serbia’s Anja Crevar and Italy’s Sara Franceschi launched a huge finish and they really closed the gap but the touch favoured Gunes while the chasers were tied for the silver. An interesting fact: favourite Zsuzsanna Jakabos faded in the second half, finished 5th – but the Hungarian’s family had still something to celebrate: his coach and husband Ivan Petrov’s twin brother, Arpad Petrov coaches Gunes who swims now in the same pool in Gyor (HUN). It was the first win at senior level for Gunes, she had silvers in the breast events in Netanya 2015.
The first men’s final offered similar thrills and at the end Netherlands’ Luc Kroon’s managed to pass Italy’s Matteo Ciampi who was leading for most of the race. Kroon gained half a second on his rival while Marco di Tullio arrived in time to give Italy a 2-3 finish. Kroon delivered a first-ever podium for the Dutch in this event.
Russia claimed its first medal, a gold in the women’s 4x50m free relay – they sailed away from the others and never let their rivals have a shot at the title. Their winning margin of 0.55sec was convincing, the Dutch came second, ahead of Polish. Interestingly, the best individual efforts occurred in the leadoff legs (no better splits were clocked with flying starts), Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom was 0.05sec faster than Poland’s Katarzyna Wasick – the semis of the individual race had seen something similar which promises a brilliant final for Wednesday.
The Dutch landed another gold in the men’s relay which ended in the same thriller the whole session began with. Though Italy’s Lorenzo Zazzeri came up with a brilliant 20.24 split in the third leg and gave Italy a 0.17sec lead but the clash of the veterans in the homecoming saw Thom de Boer out-touching Marco Orsi by 0.03sec at the wall.
Russia had some fine rockets in its line-up but Olympic champion backstroker Evgeny Rylov’s 20.99 put Kliment Kolesnikov a bit behind before the last turnover and even Kolesnikov was the fastest anchor he could only secure bronze for the home team. Thus, he needs to wait a day for his first title – he already signed up for that by setting a new Championship Record in the men’s 50m back in the semis.