by Lydia Ferrari Kehoe
Mona McSharry became the first ever European U23 swimming champion at the inaugural event in Dublin, winning gold on home soil in the first final of the evening.
LEN President Antonio Silva’s opening remarks promised “three days of fast and furious racing”, and the first night of finals certainly delivered.
In what was a poetic way to start the competition, Ireland’s Mona McSharry put on an electrifying display in the Women’s 50m Breastroke to take gold.
Speaking after the race, she said: “I was just trying to have some fun and race. We have a great crowd tonight and I’m just trying to soak all that up.”
The Sligo native touched in a time of 30.37, edging out second place Anita Bottazzo of Italy who touched second in 30.59.
Nothing could separate Kaitlyn Dobler of the United States and Norway’s Silje Slyngstadli, who touched in 30.91 to receive a commemorative medal and bronze medal, respectively.
An exciting race in the Women’s 100m Butterfly saw Ireland’s Ellen Walshe battling with GB’s Keanna Macinnes for the European title.
A strong finish from Macinnes, who is a 200m Butterfly specialist based at the University of Stirling, saw her claiming gold in 58.48, while Walshe claimed silver in 58.70 to mark the host nation’s second medal of the night.
Macinnes and Walshe are both fresh from competition at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, where the Scottish athlete made her debut appearance for Team GB. Portugal’s Mariana Cunha claimed European bronze in 58.87.
Dimitrios Markos (GRE) was the only man to break the 1:47 mark in the Men’s 200m Freestyle final, storming to the win in a time of 1:46.65.
Yann Le Goff (FRA) won European silver in 1:47.85, while Eytan Ben Shitrit of Israel was third on the European podium in 1:48.01.
The German athletes showed their strength from the beginning in the Women’s 800m Freestyle, pulling away from the rest of the field inside the first 200m of the race.
Isabel Gose, who is defending European champion in the 400m distance, controlled the race from the beginning with her experience on the international stage shining through.
She added another European title to her collection, touching in 8:20.80 – roughly nine seconds ahead of silver medallist and German teammate, Leonie Maertens (8:29.66).
Speaking after the race, Gose said she was: “very proud to represent Team Germany” and to take home the gold medal alongside her teammate. GB’s Fleur Lewis completed the podium in 8:39.11.
The distance races provided the National Aquatic Centre with some thrilling swim action, including two mesmerising gold medal performances! 🏊— LEN – European Aquatics (@LENaquatics) August 11, 2023
🥇 Women 800m Free – Isabel Gose 🇩🇪
🥇 Men 1500m Free – @WiffenDaniel 🇮🇪#LENDublin2023 | #Swimming
An outside burner from Tessa Giele (NED) saw her winning the Women’s 50m Backstroke final from lane seven with a time of 27.86.
Isabelle Stadden (USA) was the only other athlete to break the 28-second mark with her time of 27.98.
The European silver medal went to Poland’s Adela Piskorska who has been enjoying a stellar season so far. The 19-year-old won all three backstroke events at this year’s Polish National Championships, breaking a 14-year-old national record in the 200m distance in the process.
Bertille Cousson (FRA) took home bronze in 28.82, while Ireland’s Maria Godden enjoyed her best result at European level, finishing in fifth with a time of 28.98.
A surge of power in the final 15m from Lucie Tessariol (FRA) saw her taking the title in the Women’s 200m Freestyle (1:58.42) ahead of Francisca Martins (POR) who touched for silver in 1:58.60.
Janja Segel added to Slovenia’s medal tally with a third place finish, edging under the 1:59 mark in a time of 1:58.66.
One of the closest finals of the night came in the Men’s 100m Butterfly which saw USA’s Gabriel Jett touch ahead of the field in 51.65.
It was the smallest of margins that separated Simon Bucher (AUT) and Jakub Majerski (POL), who won European gold and silver, respectively, with 51.69 and 51.70.
That’s it for the opening day of the European U23 Swimming Championships. Here are your final batch of winners 🏊— LEN – European Aquatics (@LENaquatics) August 11, 2023
🥇 Men 100m Fly – Simon Bucher 🇦🇹⁰
🥇 Women 200m IM – Ellen Walshe 🇮🇪
🥇 Mixed 4x100m M Medley – Poland 🇵🇱#LENDublin2023 | #Swimming
Ellen Walshe added another medal to her tally, this time gold in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley (2:13.12), adding to her earlier silver medal in the 100m Butterfly.
The Irish crowd roared Walshe home as she battled with USA’s Justina Kozan who was the first swimmer home in 2:12.98 to win a commemorative medal.
Hannah Bergman of Sweden had a stellar performance in the outside lane to take home silver in 2:15.12, while Kim Herkle (GER) won bronze in 2:15.42.
Ireland’s Daniel Wiffen rounded out the evening’s individual action with a dominant display in the Men’s 1500m Freestyle.
He was crowned European champion in a time of 14:35.79, shaving more than eight seconds off his most recent time in this event which earned him a fourth place finish at the World Aquatics Championships in Japan.
“I was just enjoying myself,” he said. “Listening to the crowd as I was going and that was keeping me going throughout the race.”
Wiffen will be hoping to add to his gold medal tally in the 400m and 800m Freestyle at these championships, though said that his sights are firmly set on “winning gold in Paris” at next year’s Olympic Games.
🇮🇪🥇 Hometown hero @WiffenDaniel cruised to Men 1500m Free gold with a time of 14:35.79 – very close to his PB! 👏— LEN – European Aquatics (@LENaquatics) August 11, 2023
Check out that reaction from the Irish fans! #LENDublin2023 #Swimming pic.twitter.com/9uisJmokth
In the evening’s other finals, Italy’s Simona Cerasuolo put on a dominant display in the Men’s 50m Breaststroke, breaking the 27-second mark in 26.94.
Koen De Groot (NED) was less than 0.1 of a second behind him in 27.03, while GB’s Archie Goodburn touched in third in 27.44.
In what was a stacked field in the Men’s 200m Backstroke, USA’s Hunter Tapp who got his hand to the wall first in a time of 1:56.45. That marked a significant drop from his heat’s time of 1:58.32.
A close battle between Pieter Coetze (RSA) and Kai Van Westering (NED) resulted in a 2-3 finish for them, while GB’s Charlie Brown, who was the fastest seed heading into the final, was the second European home in a time of 1:58.05 to claim silver.
The Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay rounded out this evening’s action, with the team from Poland winning gold (3:46.68), Great Britain silver (3:47.15), and Israel bronze (3:49.81).