On an evening when a string of world champions added European titles, Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk provided an upset in Rome yesterday by toppling Gregorio Paltrinieri in the men’s 1500m.
The Italian set out quickly as he did on his way to the world title in Budapest in June, building a lead of more than a second by halfway but Romanchuk, the reigning European champion, surged past in the 19th of the 30 lengths and pulled away.
He beat Paltrinieri by 3.69sec and, as the Italian crowd, which had fallen silent, applauded a Ukrainian victory, the winner balanced on the lane rope at the Foro Italico pool and beat his chest with his fist. It was Ukraine’s first medal in the swimming in Rome.
“These are hard times for me, especially mentally,” said Romanchuk, adding that he had been disappointed with his world championship and earlier 800m races in Rome. “I was mad at myself.”
Frenchman Damien Joly was 14.76sec behind the winner in third. On the eve of her 29th birthday, Swede Sarah Sjoestroem won the 50m freestyle for her 45th major championship gold medal.
Sjoestroem cruised to her second gold of the championships in 23.91sec. Pole Katarzyna Wasick was second at 0.29sec and Valerie van Roon of the Netherlands third at 0.73. Sjoestroem won both events at the world championships in Budapest in June.
It was her 27th European long-course medal, breaking a tie with Russian Alexander Popov for most by a single swimmer.
“I think my number of medals continue going up and I’m really enjoying myself here,” said the Swede.
“Now when I look up the stands and I feel the support and energy, I know why I’m doing this and why I want to go on. It just makes it all worthwhile.”
Hungarian Kristof Milak also duplicated his double at the worlds when he opened the evening by winning the 200m butterfly. He had already collected the 100m butterfly gold in Rome. The 22-year-old Milak won in 1min 52.01sec, 1.67sec outside the world record he set in Budapest but good enough to leave compatriot Richard Marton trailing in his wake, 2.77sec behind.
“My swim? Who cares?” said Milak. “The big story here is Richard’s silver. That’s something I’m really crazy about. We’ve been training together for years, before Tokyo he almost quit and stayed only to support my preps for the Games. But we convinced him he had a lot more in him.”
Italian Nicolo Martinenghi improved on his world championship performance as he won the men’s breaststroke sprint in 26.33 ahead of compatriot Simone Cerasuolo with German Lucas Matzerath third.
“It was a great race, it felt fantastic to be able to offer this race and this win to the best crowd in the world,” he said.
Martinenghi was only second in the 50m in Budapest where he won the 100m, a feat he has already repeated in Rome.
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