Rouwendaal and Rasovszky: historic and heroic
Heroism at its best: the Netherlands’ Sharon van Rouwendaal and Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky managed to earn a medal in each individual event in open water swimming by making the podium in the gruelling 25km race. Italy could clinch gold in diving in the women’s 3m synchro and that event finished with a Russian 1-2 in the men’s 10m platform final. Italy and Russia managed to earn medals in all four aquatic disciplines.
History was in the making in Loch Lomond as Kristof Rasovszky (HUN) was heading to become the first man to earn a medal in all three individual events in open water swimming at the European Championships. Sharon van Rouwendaal was out for completing a sweep of four titles, something never seen before either.
Swimming 25km in wet-suits in a lake measured at 17.2C requires heroic efforts – but two dozen swimmers were ready to face this challenge. The men’s race, as it has become usual, came down to the final sprint even after almost five hours. For a while title-holder Axel Reymond (FRA) seemed to take the upper hand but Rasovszky switched the fifth gear, passed the pack and was heading towards the finish with a 5-7m lead. However, Russia’s Kirill Belyaev and Italy’s Matteo Furlan staged a late surge but Rasovszky focused on the touch at the panel to avoid the same scenario which had cost him the title three days earlier in the 10km and kept 1.1sec from his advantage.
The Hungarian completed a historical feat: he is the first male open water swimmer ever at the European Championships who managed to medal in all three individual events – and he wrote this chapter in style with two golds (5km, 25km) and a silver (10km, lost by 0.1sec). In major events only the German legend Thomas Lurz could achieve this at the 2013 Worlds where he won the 25km, had a silver in the 10km and a bronze in the 5km (plus a gold in the team event).
The women’s race offered even more drama. With almost two laps remaining, Sharon van Rouwendaal was set to repeat the golden treble of Britta Camrau (GER) from 2004. But to the horror of the Dutch staff, she missed a buoy and had to swim back almost 120m to pass the red buoy on the right side which dropped her from the leading positions to 10th with more than 30sec behind the leaders. However, the Olympic champion geared up again and caught up the pack in the last lap. With only 50m to go she seemed to have it, but racing in the special event of 25.12km burnt all her reserves and Italy’s Arianna Bridi could find an extra gear for the last 15 metres and could out-touch the Dutch by 0.1sec to claim gold.
Still, Rouwendaal enters the history books by becoming the first female open water swimmer capturing four medals in a single edition of any major championships: she won the 5km, 10km, the team event and came second in the 25km. Racing 40km in five days as Rasovszky did and 45km (plus 120m) as Rouwendaal did and arriving first or second (by 0.1sec) at this level of competitions might put these two great champions among the top heroes of Glasgow2018 if not they were the greatest amongst all.
Waves of applause rocked the lakeside and the athletes’ lounge when Angela Maurer hit the panel: the oldest competitor in the aquatic disciplines came 4th in the gruelling race once more, at the age of 43. Lisa Pou (FRA), who finished 5th with further 1:20 minutes adrift, was born in 1999, when the German legend earned her first ever medal, a silver in the 25km at the European Championships in Istanbul…
Edinburgh saw the first Italian gold in the diving event as Elena Bertocchi and Chiara Pellacani finished atop in a thrilling final in the women’s 3m synchro. The British duo of Grace Reid and Katherina Torrance led before the last round but a badly missed dive pushed them out of the medal contest and the Italians earned a win by 2.46 points ahead of Lena Hentschel and Tina Punzel of Germany.
The men’s platform final was the highlight of the meet once more but this time not the excitements but Alexander Bondar’s tremendous show grabbed the spectators’ attention. The Russian was amazing, his third dive earned three 10s from the judges, none of his attempts scored less than 81 points and he finished the afternoon with two more 90+ pointers to claim gold with a winning margin of 60.90 points. Compatriot Nikita Shlekhter came second, only 0.55 points separated him from France’s Benjamin Auffret.
The last day’s results mean that Italy could earn gold in three of the four disciplines (swimming, diving, open water) and had medals in synchro – just as the Russians who won gold in swimming, synchro and diving and had a medal in open water.
With Day 10, the European Aquatics Championships came to an end in Glasgow, Loch Lomond and Edinburgh. The first numbers were tremendous in all fields and encourage all stakeholders to repeat the multi-sport European Championships in four years time.
The best of aquatics action shall return to Glasgow in December 2019 with the European Short-Course Swimming Championships, while the next edition of the European Aquatics Championships will be staged in Budapest (HUN) in May 2020 (open water swimming in June at Balatonfured).