Vilnius 2024: Gold rush for Lithuania, Sara Curtis shines with championship records and titles

Credit to: European Aquatics

There was a Lithuanian gold rush that had the home crowd on its feet as they claimed three titles on the second day of the European Junior Swimming Championships in Vilnius.

Kristupas Trepočka got a golden night underway at the Lazdynai Pool in the men’s 200m freestyle before Mantas Kauspedas set a national record of 24.68 en-route to the men’s 50m backstroke title.

Smilte Plytnykaite won the women’s 50m breaststroke to follow in the slipstream of Ruta Meilutyte, three-time World champion and world record-holder.

Sara Curtis also had a superb day which started with a Championship 50 free record of 24.67 in prelims as she took 0.20 from Daria Tatarinova’s standard of 24.87 from Roma 2021.

The Paris-bound 17-year-old returned in the evening to win the 50m backstroke and head the 50 free semifinals before anchoring the Italian 4x100m mixed freestyle quartet to gold in 3:28.34 for her second Championship record of the day.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Trepočka was a member of the Lithuanian men’s 4x200m freestyle squad that won gold at the European Aquatics Championships Belgrade 2024.

He was fastest into the final and reached the first turn 0.01 behind Denmark’s Nicholas Castella.

The 18-year-old reached the halfway mark ahead and extended his lead thereafter to come home in 1:47.74 as the crowd erupted, singing his name.

Ahmet Burak Isik of Türkiye was second in 1:48.04 with Castella taking bronze in 1:48.41.

“It was very special for my heart,” Trepočka told European Aquatics. “I have to say a big thank you for the support from the swimmers, from the coaches and other people who have supported me in this journey for this medal.

“I’m very thankful for this (medal), I know I can do better, much better in the future and it would be nice to see me take the next steps. I think this is just the start.”

Kauspedas set a Lithuanian record of 24.95 in the Tuesday prelims and he demolished that in the final, slicing a further 0.27 for a time that would have clinched bronze in Belgrade last month.

Daniele del Signore of Italy was second in 25.34 with Czechia’s Jakub Jan Krischke third in 25.53.

Plytnykaite is the defending 100m freestyle champion but on Wednesday she took the 50m breaststroke in 31.27.

Great Britain’s Jasmine Carter, the youngest swimmer in the field, took silver in a 31.39 PB with Nayara Pineda Lopez third in 31.46.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Curtis had a superb start in the 50m backstroke with the Italian claiming a comfortable victory in 27.94.

Martine Damborg of Denmark was second in 28.27 with Blythe Kinsman taking bronze in 28.29.

Curtis posted 24.73 for top spot in the 50 free semis before returning for the mixed 4x100m freestyle.

She anchored Italy home in 54.74 as the quartet cut 0.09 from Germany’s 3:28.43 standard from 2019.

It was also Curtis’ third gold medal of Vilnius 2024 after Italy retained their women’s 4x100m freestyle title on the opening night.

Germany was second in 3:28.83 with France third in 3:29.11.

Curtis told European Aquatics: “I’m very, very proud of these races and I’m so happy to be here at this competition & championships and it makes me very happy.

“I’m very excited for freestyle too (tomorrow) but we will see what I can do.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

The session got underway with the women’s 200m freestyle where Minna Abraham led throughout to upgrade 2023 silver to gold.

Out in 27.36, Abraham extended her advantage throughout for a dominant win in 1:57.52, a PB and just 0.01 outside Isabel Gose’s Championship record of 1:57.51 from Kazan 2019.

Rebecca-Aimee Diaconescu had squeaked into the semis by 0.01 in 16th before going through to the final in eighth.

Swimming from lane eight, the Romanian was third at halfway before moving into second by the 150m mark to come home for silver in 1:58.97.

On a night for the outside lanes, Dora Molnar took bronze from lane one in 1:59.45 to make it a Hungary 1-3.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Vlad-Stefan Mihalache of Romania led from the start of the men’s 200m butterfly and was 0.35 ahead of second-placed Samuel Kostal at the final turn.

The Slovakian ate into the deficit down the last 50 as the pair went stroke for stroke but it was Mihalache who touched first in 1:57.42, 0.20 ahead of Kostal who took silver in 1:57.62.

Third was Hungarian David Antal, the 15-year-old splitting 30.55 for the swiftest final 50 to touch in 1:57.67.

Nusrat Allahverdi claimed Türkiye’s first title of the meet with victory in the men’s 50m breaststroke in 27.60.

He was followed by Germany’s Subajr Biltaev (27.78) and Maksim Manolov of Bulgaria (27.89).

Credit to: European Aquatics

Amelie Blocksidge, the British senior champion in the 800 and 1500m freestyle, was seeking her first European junior title.

Emma Vittoria Gianelli of Italy led after 300m when Blocksidge took the lead.

By 500m she was 1.36secs ahead of the Italian who was being tracked by senior continental champion Vivien Jackl.

The 15-year-old extended her lead to 6.39secs at 1000m with Jackl moving into second.

Blocksidge was metronomic, extending her advantage length by length as Jackl and Gianelli fought it out for the minor placings behind her.

She came home in 16:10.23 for Great Britain’s first gold of the Championships.

Gianelli took silver in 16:17.19 with Jackl third in 16:19.22.

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