No words for the Swiss as they land two titles, and Italy claims two, too
Swiss champions were lost for words on the opening day at the European Junior Swimming Championships in Kazan after Antonio Djakovic and Noe Ponti claimed astonishing wins in the 400m free and 50m fly respectively. While this double was unexpected, Italy’s one didn’t come out of the blue as both wins were convincing ones in the women’s 50m breast and 800m free. Russia and Germany triumphed in the relays.
Winners of Day 1
Men. 400m free: Antonio Djakovic (SUI) 3:47.89. 50m fly: Noe Ponti (SUI) 23.48. 4x100m free relay: Russia 3:18.48.
Women. 400m IM: Alba Vazquez Ruiz (ESP) 4:40.64 CR. 50m breast: Benedetta Pilato (ITA) 30.16 CR. 800m free: Giulia Salin (ITA) 8:29.19 CR. 4x100m free relay: Germany 3:41.24 CR.
A historical day for Switzerland: two golds on the same day at big events are not a rarity up in the snow-covered mountains but it is definitely in swimming where the nation doesn’t belong to the powerhouses. Since the inaugural 1967 edition the Swiss managed to earn two titles in the history of the junior Europeans – now they clinched as many in 50 minutes as in the previous 52 years.
Both victories came in nailbiting races. Antonio Djakovic staged a brilliant duel with Russia’s Aleksandr Egorov in the 400m free, it was a great neck-by-neck swim and the Swiss managed to gain 0.39sec on the home favourite at the end. Compatriot Noe Ponti’s win was a stunner in the 50m fly and in fact couldn’t have been any tighter as he out-touched Germany’s Luca Nik Ambuster by 0.01sec at the wall.
The meet’s first title landed in Spain as Alba Vazquez Ruiz did a clean job in the women’s 400m IM. The next two female golds went to Italy, convincing performances earned these triumphs for Benedetta Pilato in the 50m breast (a full second was her winning margin) and Giulia Salin in the 800m free (the gap was 5.37sec here).
The session concluding relays offered contrasting battles, while Russia and Italy produced a thriller which saw the hosts reaching for the wall first, by 0.06sec. The women’s sprinters missed the same excitements, here the Germans stormed to a fine victory – apparently, that was a new CR too so all four women’s finals produced a new Championship Record.
Quotes from the winners
Alba Vazquez Ruiz (ESP), 400m IM
“Last year I was fourth in this event. Since then I gained a lot of experience and tried to build my race based on that. I’m happy that it worked.”
Antonio Djakovic (SUI), 400m free
“Amazing it was… No words… I mean, I though I might get a medal here. Perhaps silver. Gold only in my dreams. Then you saw it. It was a great race, neck-to-neck. I pushed the last 50m as hard as I could.”
Noe Ponti (SUI), 50m fly
“Men, that’s great. Two golds for Switzerland in one day, that never happened in history I guess. I didn’t think I could be that fast. I know these guys, Luca (Ambuster) and Andrei (Minakov), they were the favourites. But things happen sometimes. I have no words to describe my feelings!”
Benedetta Pilato (ITA), 50m breast
“It was a great race, everything went according to plans, I’m very happy now.”
Giulia Salin (ITA), 800m free
“It was a really emotional win for me. To swim in this fantastic pool in this great atmosphere was really special. The race was great, I swam well so I’m very-very happy now.”