ROMA 2022: SWIMMING PREVIEW – MEN TO WATCH

WHO ARE THE MEN-TO-WATCH AT ROMA 2022?

READY TO RUMBLE: Milak, Ceccon, Popovici and Proud hunt for gold

Thomas Ceccon
Can Italian Ceccon add Euro gold to his world title at Roma 2022 – Photo: Simone Castrovillari/LEN

In June, two individual world records were set at the World Championships in Budapest, both by swimmers who are to shine in Rome as well: Kristof Milak and Thomas Ceccon.

Hungary’s superstar Kristof Milak has staged an unbeaten run in the 200m fly since Glasgow 2018. Last year he added the 100m title at the Europeans, he also won that event at the Worlds this June and he bettered his own world record in the 200m.

Italy’s Thomas Ceccon stunned the swimming pundits with his victory and his new world record in the 100m back at the Worlds in Budapest, pipping USA’s Ryan Murphy and Hunter Armstrong for the title – now he is back for more in front of the home fans.

David Popovici has made a rapid rise in the sport and won many new fans – Photo: Simone Castrovillari/LEN

Another top medal contender is Romania’s David Popovici, who first hit the headlines last year here in the Foro Italico by sweeping the 50-100-200m free titles at the junior Europeans, smashing junior WRs en route.

The 17-year-old made his real breakthrough at senior level this June at the World Championships by winning the 100m and 200m freestyle – the first to achieve that double since 1973. His match-up with Olympic champion Tom Dean, who just won an English record medal haul of seven at the Commonwealth Games, could be one of the races of Roma 2022.

Ben Proud
Ben Proud won the 50m freestyle title at Glasgow 2018 – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

Another British swimmer in impressive form is sprinter Benjamin Proud who is looking for an incredible 50m freestyle treble. After winning World and Commonwealth gold medals over the last two months, he now seeks the European title to complete his set.

France’s 100m World silver and 50m free bronze medallist Maxime Grousset will be among those hoping to end his winning streak though.

THRILLER TO BE CONTINUED… Paltrinieri, Romanchuk and Wellbrock in the spotlight

5km open water winners
‘Frenemies’ Paltrinieri, Wellbrock and Romanchuk – Photo: Simone Castrovillari/LEN

The men’s long course freestyle events will once again be one of the Championships’ highlights. The only question is: who will be the main actor this time?

At Budapest 2021, it was Ukrainian Mykhaylo Romanchuk who claimed the top spot both in the 800 and 1500m freestyle, ahead of Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri. This spring Romanchuk was offered refuge and training opportunities with Florian Wellbrock away from Ukrainian. At the World Championships he claimed bronze medals in the 800m and 5km open water event.

Gregorio Paltrinieri on the other hand, presented a super show at this year’s World Championships, dominating the 1500m free on lane one from the beginning of the race.

In addition to that title – and a new European record of 14 minutes 32.80 seconds – the 27-year-old added gold and silver in the 10km and 5km open water events respectively.

And there is Wellbrock, the German emperor who did the open water-pool double (10km+1500m free) at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, triumphed at the Olympic 10km marathon in Tokyo where he also claimed silver in the 1500m free,

He also had a great run this June at the Worlds in Budapest: silver in the 800m, bronze in the 1500m, followed by world titles in 4x1500m relay and 5km open water races. He has struggled with a Covid infection since that event, but is still expected to be among the favourites.

BREASTSTROKE BRILLIANCE: Martinenghi vs Kamminga vs Wilby

Nicolo Martinenghi (left), Arno Kamming (centre), James Wilby – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

Triple Olympic champion Adam Peaty has dominated four editions of the European Championships since his maiden successes at Berlin 2014, but will miss the 2022 edition.

He suffered a broken foot in May and despite returning to the pool for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham a week ago – and winning the 50m title – he was far from his best and decided he would take a number of months off after finishing fourth in the 100m event.

In his absence British team-mate and 2019 World silver medallist James Wilby will seek to claim a first individual European crown after two silvers at Glasgow 2018.

James Wilby
James Wilby won Commonwealth 100m breaststroke gold last month – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

Dutchman Arno Kamminga and Italy’s upcoming breaststroke star Nicolo Martinenghi joined Peaty in making the 100m breaststroke Europe’s only medal sweep at the Tokyo Olympics.

Kamminga, left the World Championships in Budapest with mixed emotions. After finishing second in the 100m race, the Dutch had to withdraw from the event due to illness.

In Rome Kamminga, the second swimmer ever to dip under the 58-second threshold in the 100m breast, makes a new attempt to snatch his first European long course title.

But he needs to face a big challenge from Martinenghi who beat him in the 100m, came runner-up in the 50m at the Worlds and was also instrumental in Italy’s stunning medley relay win over the USA in June.

That success proved to be the perfect ending to Italy’s fairy-tale-like event as the swimming team produced the nation’s best-ever World Championship medal count in the pool with nine podiums. They will be expected to challenge for even more at a home Europeans.

Arno Kamminga is a double Olympic silver medallist – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

OTHER ONES-TO-WATCH:

Austrian Felix Auboeck won Austria’s first ever freestyle medal in Budapest 2021 in the 400m free and will again be among the contenders, while Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk looks strong after an impressive 50m backstroke world bronze and impressive Euro junior medal haul.

Switzerland will be represented by Jeremy Desplanches, who surprised many by winning the 200m individual medley in Glasgow 2018, but also keep an eye-out for team-mates Roman Mityukjov, and Noé Ponti.