Corfu 2023: Spain just 0.6sec from relay double but Hungary finishes top of the rankings

Medallists of the open relay insisted on doing the youngsters’ unmissable podium selfie – Credit: European Aquatics/Istvan Derencsenyi

Spanish relay swimmers delivered gold and a silver on the last day at the European Junior Open Water Swimming Championships in Corfu (GRE). They were 0.6sec away from a golden double but Hungary denied them in the open category to add a fourth title here and ensure the top ranking both in the medal table and the race for the Championship Trophy.

Gorgeous sunshine and perfect race conditions awaited the swimmers on the last day of the junior Europeans on the shores of Corfu, a picture-perfect venue for this event. As usual, two relays concluded the meet – first in the Open category, then a 14–16-year-old team event to close the three-day spectacular.

In the open category a couple of teams applied different tactics, including Italy who started with their two male athletes but at the end the contest for the medals went down to three teams, Hungary, Spain, and Germany, finishing the race with their male competitors. For the last 1250m it was narrowed to a two-horse race between Hungary and Spain. By many aspects, Spain’s Carlos Garach was set to deliver a win as he battled with Hunor Kovacs-Seres, who was two years younger and a huge 20sec gap between their PBs in 1500m also favoured Garach. But, in open water these differences might be erased which came to pass as Kovacs Seres, runner-up in the 7.5km event on Friday, withstood the pressure Garach imposed and was superior in the physical contest. The Spanish, who had led two-thirds of the race in the 10km on Saturday, tried to launch a final attack over the last 100m but the Hungarian never let him pass and his perfectly-timed touch, just 0.6sec ahead of Garach, secured another gold for the Magyars.

A cut above the rest – Spain’s U16 relay was truly outstanding

The Spaniards got some consolation in the relay for the younger athletes. They were unmatched by the others, dominating right from the start. They led by 12sec after the first lap, and by 13 after the second which was even more remarkable as the Germans placed a boy as their second swimmer. Before the final 1250m, they enjoyed a 45sec advantage and even though Italy’s Davide Grossi came up with an outstanding 12:46sec split in the last lap, Spain still claimed a big 19sec victory. Germany landed the bronze – for them it was business as usual, as in the open category they also finished third. In a sign of great development potential, this was their 6th bronze medal in Corfu.

Overall, Hungary overpowered the opposition with seven medals, including four golds, the best-ever tally for their team and, not surprisingly, they also clinched the Championship Trophy, for the second time since 2021.

The Hungarians conquered Corfu

Corfu showed its very best face to Europe’s most talented young open water swimmers, with marvellous weather for late September. The local organisation was excellent, with a team led by Greece’s legendary world champion Spyridon Gianniotis and no effort was spared to create a great racing environment for the young participants.

Medal table

Hungary. 4                2                1

Poland                 2                0                0

Spain                   1                3                1

Great-Britain      1                0                0

Italy                     0                3                0

Germany            0                0                6

Championship Trophy (top 5)

1. Hungary     236 points

2. Germany    208

3. Italy             191

4. Spain          163

6. Greece         94