Budapest 2022: Italy third world power in swimming, Ukraine second in artistic swimming
At the conclusion of the swimming competition at the Duna Arena pool in Budapest, Italy come right
among the world powers in the discipline behind the United States and Australia, getting first place in the
medal tally among European nations.
The historic result comes on a glorious last day for the Italian flag thanks to the two gold medals claimed by Gregorio Paltrinieri in the men’s 1500 freestyle and by the men's 4x100m mixed relay. The Olympic champion managed to bounce back from his 800m disappointment, mastering the race from the very first metres to finish solo with a new European record of 14:32.80. German Florian Wellbrock, gold medallist in 2019, could do nothing against the Italian and had to settle for the lowest step on the podium with a 14:36.94 performance. USA’s Bobby Finke (14:36.70) came second.
"This is a dream," Paltrinieri said. "I was in lane 1, I could see the crowd cheering me on. Today I got on the starting block to win. This world gold is the most important medal of all."
In the men's 4x100 mixed relay, Italy lined up the two new individual world champions in the backstroke and breaststroke, Thomas Ceccon and Nicolò Martinenghi, who, with Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi, managed to hold their own against the United States (3:27.79), Olympic gold medallists at Tokyo 2020, and the defending world champions Great Britain (3:31.31). The quartet combined the first historic victory for Italy in the event with a European record of 3:27.51, equalling the one held by the Brits.
"This is the most beautiful medal, it is the medal that makes us sing the Mameli anthem all together," said Martinenghi, securing his second gold medal in Budapest. "We knew that we could not miss the backstroke and breaststroke legs; then my teammates were perfect and we beat the United States.”
Benedetta Pilato and Simona Quadarella also contributed to enriching the Italian medal table. The world record-holder Pilato got silver in the women’s 50m breaststroke with a time of 29.80, behind Lithuania's Ruta Meilutyte (29.70). The Roman swimmer recovered from the bitterness of the women’s 1500m free style, grabbing the women’s 800m freestyle bronze in 8:19.00.
Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom confirmed her title in the women’s 50m butterfly in 24.95 for her sixth world podium finish. Behind her was France's Melanie Henique, silver in 25.31, 0.01 seconds ahead of China's Zhang Yufeng. The multiple Olympic and world champion added then another gold in the women’s 50m freestyle with a 23.98 performance, the only woman to go under 24 seconds.
"It is an incredible feeling to go under 24," Sjostrom said. "I am so happy that I was able to do my best time every time in the final.”
Hungary's Kristof Milak became the first European swimmer in history to complete a double in the men’s 100m and 200m butterfly in the same edition of a world championships, winning the shortest race in 50.14.
In the event crowning the fastest swimmer in the world, Britain's Ben Proud secured victory in 21.32 in the men’s 50m freestyle. US Michael Andrew (21.41) and Frenchman Maxime Grousset who touched the plate in 21.57 completed the podium.
"Before I came here, if someone had said I was going home as world champion, I would have laughed in their face," Proud said. "I am so grateful to those who helped me at home and from home, it was a great comeback after the Olympics for me.”
Poland ended the championships in the pool with Katarzyna Wasik's claiming silver in the women’s 50m freestyle in 24.18 and Ksawery Masiuk getting on the foot of the podium in the men’s 50m backstroke with a time of 24.49.
In less than two months' time, some thrilling performances are expected at Roma 2022. The home team will face the European Championships having achieved the best ever performance in the history of the world championships: nine medals in total, including five golds, two silvers and two bronzes.
In artistic swimming, which also came to a close, Ukraine won seven medals, placing second behind China. In addition to the gold and four silvers, the Ukrainian team got another second place in the free team routine, evaluated by the judges with a score of 95.0000, and took gold on the last day in the highlight routine with 95.0333 points. Italy with 92.2667 points and Spain (91.9333) were second and third.
Italy’s Lucrezia Ruggiero and Giorgio Minisini got a second gold in Budapest in the mixed free duet routine, after the one in mixed duet technical routine, with a score of 90.9667. The two Italians prevailed over the pairs from Japan and China.
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