Otopeni 2023: Ranking the six top performances

Credit to: European Aquatics

With the European Short Course Swimming Championships having concluded, we recap six of the most impressive performances in Otopeni.

DANIEL WIFFEN: 800m FREESTYLE

Credit to: Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

While Leon Marchand (400IM) and Qin Haiyang (200m breaststroke) broke men’s world records in the long-course pool in 2023, no swimmer – male or female – had set a new short-course standard.

The last man to do so was Tomoru Honda who went 1:46.85 in the 200m butterfly at the Japanese Championships in October 2022.

Daniel Wiffen rewrote those statistics with an 800m freestyle masterclass in Otopeni, when he downed the longest-standing world record in the books.

The 22-year-old took almost three seconds off the mark held by Grant Hackett since July 2008 to become the first Irish world record-holder in seven minutes 20.46 seconds.

Wiffen was 0.11secs inside world-record pace at halfway before accelerating over the second half of the race.

He negative-split the race, going 3:40.91 over the first 400m before coming back in 3:39.55.

What made the performance even more remarkable was that Wiffen had experienced sickness and stomach cramps in the early hours of the morning and spent much of the day sleeping.

BEN PROUD: 50m FREESTYLE

Credit to: European Aquatics

Ben Proud arrived in Otopeni with a PB and British 50 free record of 20.40 dating back to December 2021.

The 29-year-old went within 0.16 as he led off the winning British men’s 4x50m freestyle squad in 20.56.

Proud was the only man inside 21secs in the individual prelims in 20.97, lowering that to 20.66 in the semifinals.

Come the final and Proud was just 0.02secs outside Caeleb Dressel’s WR split at halfway in 9.64 before matching the American’s second 25 of 10.54.

The time of 20.18 was 0.02 shy of Dressel’s 20.16 from November 2020 and the second-fastest performance all-time.

It took 0.08secs from Florent Manaudou’s European record of 20.26 which had stood since the World Short Course Championships in December 2014.

It was also Proud’s first European short-course title.

NOE PONTI: 100m BUTTERFLY

Credit to: European Aquatics

Noe Ponti departed the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka having finished seventh in the 100m butterfly, two years after bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

Coming in to Otopeni, the Swiss swimmer’s best short-course time was his 48.81 national record to top the prelims at the 2022 World Short Course Championships before he went on to finish fourth in the final.

After heading the prelims in 49.14, Ponti posted 48.61 in the semis to cut 0.32 from Evgeny Korotyshkin’s Championship record of 48.93 that had stood since December 2009.

The 22-year-old was third at halfway in the final in 22.68, 0.04 behind leader Jacob Peters, but 0.20secs inside Korotyshkin’s 22.88 split en-route to the European record 14 years previously.

Ponti overhauled Peters and Maxime Grousset with a second 50 of 25.79 to stop the clock in 48.47, 0.01 inside Korotyshkin’s continental standard of 48.48 set during the supersuit era.

He described his record-setting title as “redemption” for Fukuoka and he went on to become the first swimmer to complete the butterfly clean sweep at a single edition of the European Short Course Swimming Championships.

BENEDETTA PILATO: 50m BREASTSTROKE

Credit to: Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

Benedetta Pilato had qualified for her second Olympics at the Italian Winter Championships days before making the trip to Romania.

Second in the 100m breaststroke after being overhauled by Eneli Jefimova on the final 25, the Italian stormed to a Championship record of 28.98 in the semis to take 0.12 from Ruta Meilutyte’s 29.10 from December 2013.

That lasted two minutes shy of 24 hours when the 18-year-old split 13.19/15.67 to lower the record once more to 28.86, 0.05 outside her Italian mark of 28.81 from November 2020.

Pilato was the only woman inside 29secs as she claimed victory by 0.26 over Jefimova.

ANASTASIA KIRPICHNIKOVA: 1500m FREESTYLE

Credit to: Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK

The Frenchwoman had already won the 800 free title by 6.35secs from Simona Quadarella when she began her 1500 programme.

She led the prelims by almost 20 seconds from Ajna Kesely and was 0.63secs ahead of Quadarella after only 100m in the final.

Come the 800m mark and Kirpichnikova was 0.83secs outside Sarah Wellbrock’s European record pace in 8:08.39 to 8:09.22.

Kirpichnikova was completely dominant and the question was not whether she’d claim her second straight title in the longest race in the pool but how close she’d come to Wellbrock’s mark.

She finished in 15:20.12, 2.11secs outside the European record, as Kirpichnikova expressed mixed feelings of joy at gold and disappointment of not having rattled Wellbrock’s time.

Victory was hers by almost 17 seconds from Quadarella with Kesely over 31 seconds adrift in third.

It was her second-fastest performance all-time behind the 15:18.30 Championship record she set at Kazan 2021 while representing Russia and the fifth-fastest in history.

It was also a new French record, cutting a whopping 13.30secs from her time of 15:33.42 at the national championships in October.

TES SCHOUTEN: 200m BREASTSTROKE

Credit to: European Aquatics

Schouten won her first European short course medal with bronze in the 100m breaststroke, 0.14 outside her Dutch record of 1:03.90 en-route to silver at the 2022 World Swimming Championships (25m) in Melbourne.

The Netherlands swimmer topped the prelims in the 200m before lowering her national record to 2:16.98 in the semis, slicing 1.21secs from her previous standard of 2:18.19 and bypassing 2:17 altogether.

More was to come in the final.

Schouten reached halfway in 1:04.71, 0.47secs inside Rebecca Soni’s world-record pace and 0.08 inside Rikke Pedersen’s time en-route to the European mark.

She finished in 2:16.09 to enjoy a winning margin of 3.45secs over Thea Blomsterberg in second and claimed her first senior international title.

Schouten was 0.87secs outside Pedersen’s continental standard of 2:15.21 which has now stood for 10 years.

Soni’s global record of 2:14.57 is also still safe after 14 years from the final weeks of the supersuit era.

Schouten trains at the High Performance Centre Amsterdam alongside double Olympic medallist Arno Kamminga and Caspar Corbeau with the trio each leaving Otopeni with a gold and bronze apiece.