Bettina Fabian and David Betlehem continued Hungary’s impressive start to the 2022 Fina World Junior Open championships with two 10km gold medals on day two in Seychelles.
Team-mate Hunor Kovacs-Seres secured 7.5km victory on the opening day of racing with fellow Hungarian swimmers Mate Hartmann and Lia Csulak claiming bronze medals.
In the men’s 10km event, for 18-19-year-olds, Betlehem, who trains with Olympic medallist Kristof Rasovszky, took an early lead.
He attempted a similar tactic at the senior European Championships in Rome last month, but was overtaken in the final lap. Here though, despite challenging conditions, he managed to not only maintain, but extend his advantage.
He took victory in one hour 53 minutes and 10.3 seconds, with Italian duo Pasquale Giordano (1:57:42.8) and Giuseppe Ilario (1:57:44.2) taking second and third respectively.
“I’m so thankful for Kristof (Rasovszky),” said Betlehem. He’s like, ‘You can do it. You can do it.’
“I did something similar in Paris (FINA Marathon Swim Series second leg) and then in Canada (FINA Marathon Swim Series third leg) which kind of a breakthrough for me. Finishing third there showed I can be at the top level.
“I now have a lot more confidence racing this way.”
The women’s race, also for 18-19-year-old swimmers was more of a contest with several swimmers in the hunt for the major medals heading into the closing stages.
With 250m remaining though Fabian was able to pull ahead and take gold in 2:03:11.4.
Spaniard Candela Anchez Lora (2:03:13.5) and Mira Szimcsak of Hungary (2:03:18.0) close behind and taking the respective silver and bronze medals.
“I really can’t describe how happy I am right now; I really can’t believe it,” Fabian said.
“Still, I’m shaking and I’m trying to realize that I’m the new junior world championship champion. I worked really hard for it and I think we really deserve it.”
The FINA World Junior Open Water Championships conclude on Sunday with two 4x1500m Mixed Relay events with teams consisting of two female and two male competitors.
One will feature athletes aged 14-16 and the other an open category for athletes 14-19.