Italy’s Alberto Razzetti secured the host nation a first gold medal in the pool on the opening night of Roma 2022 European Championship swimming finals at the iconic Stadio del Nuoto.
The individual medley specialist, who took silver in the 400m IM at the Budapest 2020 Europeans, claimed the top honour at this edition after a brilliant comeback performance.
Rival David Verraszto of Hungary (silver) and Italian team-mate Pier Andrea Matteazzi (bronze) joined Razzetti on the podium.
There were also gold medals for the Netherlands women and the Hungarian men in their respective 4x200m freestyle relay finals.
Men’s 400m individual medley:
Verraszto won the European 400m IM title at Berlin 2014, London 2016 and Glasgow 2018 before finishing fourth at last year’s edition and the now 33-year-old admits he considered quitting the sport after the Tokyo Olympics.
He led at the halfway staged, but roared on by the home fans, Razzetti surged back and then ahead. It was a lead he maintained on the final freestyle leg, finishing in four minutes 10.60 seconds.
Matteazzi edged a close finish against Hubert Kos of Hungary to claim the final podium position.
“The pressure was tremendous here in Rome, in front of our fans, but I did it and I’m overjoyed,” said Razzetti after collecting his gold medal.
“I know my rivals very well, I knew I had to stay close to them and stay focused for all the race. I did that, I gave my all and I’m really happy to open the championships with a gold.”
Women’s 4x200m freestyle relay
The Dutch women are rarely podium contenders in this event, but after finding themselves in third after the first leg the team of Imani De Jon, Silke Holkenborg, Janna Van Kooten and Marrit Steenbergen progressed past Great Britain and Hungary to claim gold.
“We are shouting out our happiness, because this is our first medal in this event and it’s a long time since we swam together,” said Steenbergen.
“There were seven more teams in the final and one can always better you. However, today we were the best ones and we’re so happy to win this gold.”
Men’s 4x200m freestyle relay
The French men looked to be heading towards a dominant victory at the halfway stage of their final, before Hungarian 200m butterfly world record holder took over on the final leg and powered his side to victory.
A late surge from Italy’s Steffano di Cola secured silver for the hosts, with France taking bronze.
“It was easy to finish it off like this after my three fantastic buddies did a brilliant job,” said Milak of Hungary after the event. “This was a great race and we all feel great to win Hungary’s 100th European Championship gold medal in swimming.”
Other standout performances:
Despite only three finals on the opening night of swimming competition at Roma 2022 fans were treated to a series of stunning semi-final swims at the Stadio del Nuoto.
Men’s 100m breaststroke:
Among the main highlights was the chance for Italian spectators to see their new World champion Nicolo Martinenghi, who did not disappoint and set the quickest time (58.44 seconds) ahead of the 100m breaststroke final on Friday.
There he will face World silver medallist Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands who won the other semi-final in 59.29 secs.
“We are friends out of the pool, but enemies in it,” joked the Italian after his semi-final victory. “I’m really looking forward to racing Arno tomorrow.”
Women’s 200m backstroke:
Italian great Federica Pellegrini picked former team-mate Margherita Panziera as a ‘one-to-watch’ ahead of Roma 2022 and the two-time 200m backstroke European champion showed why, setting the quickest time (2:08.18) in the semi-finals.
British teenager Katie Shanahan – fresh from two bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games less than two weeks ago – could be her closest rival, after posting the second fastest time – 2:09.82.
Men’s 50m butterfly:
Unsurprisingly for a 50m ‘splash-and-dash’ event there was little to separate the quickest semi-finalists, but it was Nyls Korstanje of the Netherlands who secured lane four after finishing in 22.88 seconds.
His battle with Maxime Grousset of France (22.90), is likely to be one of the battles of day two, although the final will also feature Ukraine’s Andriy Govorov, who is the world record holder in the event.
Women’s 100m freestyle:
French Olympian Charlotte Bonnet won the 200m freestyle at Glasgow 2018 and will look to claim her first European 100m free title on Friday after qualifying in 53.56 secs.
Marrit Steenbergen, who would later be instrumental in the Netherland’s 4x200m success, warmed up for that final with the second fastest time – 53.80 secs.
For all of the latest results head to the LEN Roma 2022 Live Scoring site.