Belgrade 2024: Greece enjoy glittering final night, Kuzey Tuncelli turns junior success into senior gold

Published On: June 23, 2024

Credit to:  European Aquatics

The 37th edition of the European Aquatics Championships drew to a close with Hungary flying high at the top of the medal table in Belgrade.

The Hungarians left the Serbian capital with 10 golds among 27 medals following seven days of racing at the Sports and Recreational Center Milan Gale Muškatirović.

The final evening belonged to Greece as they enjoyed two 1-2 finishes to go second in the final standings with five golds among 17 trips to the podium.

Credit to: European Aquatics

A new 50m freestyle champion would be crowned in the absence of Ben Proud with world champion Vladyslav Bukhov among the field.

But it was Kristian Gkolomeev who qualified as top seed.

The Greek won bronze at the last two editions which followed silver at Glasgow 2018 but on Sunday he finally upgraded to gold in 21.72.

Victory was his by the narrowest of margins, 0.01 ahead of Sergio Marios Bilas who took silver from lane eight in 21.73 for a Greek 1-2.

Bukhov added European bronze to World gold in 21.85.

Gkolomeev said: “Very special. For me personally I have been chasing this medal a long time. Since 2012 I’ve had a lot of fourth places, I’ve won silver and had two bronzes so I am very happy with a gold medal and I am now focused on the Olympics.”

Of the Greek success, he said: “Everyone is swimming very, very fast. A lot of medals, a lot of national records. Yeah, as a team we are doing very well.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

Apostolos Christou won 100m backstroke silver at Roma 2022 which followed bronze in the previous three editions.

On Sunday he was 0.25 off the pace of world record-holder Thomas Ceccon at halfway before finally taking gold in 52.23 to complete the 50/100 double in Belgrade.

Evangelos Makrygiannis followed him home in 52.83 for another Greek 1-2 with Ksawery Masiuk of Poland taking bronze in 53.56.

Only Rio 2016 champion Ryan Murphy has gone quicker than Christou in 2024 and that by the narrowest of margins in 52.22 at the US trials.

Christou said: “It’s a great time and another gold for me. I am really happy with the result and it’s a good push for me through Paris.

“I’m really happy and excited because the Europeans wasn’t my main goal, my main goal is Paris.

“I wanted to be fast here, I achieved that and I have all the confidence for Paris.”

Christou completed the 50/100 double and was also joined on the podium by Makrygiannis in the one-length race, where they claimed a 1-3 finish.

“It’s great,” he said. “It’s a medal record for us. It is a great motivation for us to be better in Paris and in general for Greek swimming.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

The final session got underway with the men’s 1500m freestyle which had originally been due to take place on Saturday but was rescheduled because of the poor weather conditions.

Mykhailo Romanchuk has enjoyed a glittering career that has encompassed Olympic and World medals in the longest race in the pool.

The Ukrainian was seeking his third straight European title and fifth consecutive medal in the event.

If Romanchuk has been at the very top table for many years, Kuzey Tuncelli is at the start of what promises to be a fine international career.

At 15, he set the Turkish senior record of 14:54.16 en-route to gold at the European Youth Olympic Festival.

And it was the 16-year-old who made his move at the 950m mark, striking out to come home in 14:55.64.

Romanchuk was second, 5.35secs adrift, in 15:00.99 with Hungarian Zalan Sarkany taking bronze in 15:06.67.

Tuncelli and Romanchuk walked together on poolside following the race.

“I am so proud of myself,” Tuncelli told European Aquatics. “It was a great race.”

He added: “I feel so happy, I cannot speak.”

With the teenager seemingly lost for words, Romanchuk beamed: “He is so happy, trust me! I know this feeling so, yeah.

“He is a nice guy. Sometimes we are training in Turkiye at Gloria Sports Arena so I saw how hard he is pushing and he deserves this medal.

“So a big congrats to him and I just can tell that I am getting older and my time is going slower unfortunately.

“But I remember that in my distance the young guys are also pushing. He played such a great performance and I believe in his great future.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

Hubert Kos came from fourth at the final turn to come through in the final metres and defend his 200IM title in 1:57.21.

Ron Polonsky of Israel took silver in 1:57.36 with Berke Saka of Turkiye third in 1:58.62.

Kos, who flopped on to the lane rope after his victory before he went on to compete in the men’s medley relay, said: “Man, I’m dead. Organise me a funeral at the end.

“It was my 16th start here. I don’t really know where this all came from. Perhaps my experience.

“And of course, it’s the Bob Bowman impact (coach Bob Bowman). That is what gives you the power to launch a finish like this.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

Felix Auboeck was inside the world record pace of Paul Biedermann for more than half of the 400 free.

The Austrian came home in 3:43.24 and was pumped up when he looked up the scoreboard and saw his time, a national record.

It elevated the Budapest 2020 silver medallist into the world top 10 in 2024 and there was some reassurance as he posted a best time in two years.

“Four weeks before (the Olympics) in best shape and doing a best time, it’s just a huge relief,” he told European Aquatics.

“This was just for myself today. I know I am so far off the best in the world. I know that and I just needed to prove to myself.”

So too was he delighted to finally make a trip to the European podium, saying:  “I’ve had a lot of opportunities and (ended up) getting fourth but today I took the opportunity and made the best out of it.

“I’m really glad I could take the shot.”

Dimitrios Markos of Greece won silver in 3:47.44 with Antonio Djakovic of Switzerland third in 4:47.62.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Ajna Kesely completed the 400/800 free double with victory in the shorter race, two years after bronze at Roma 2022.

Barbora Seemanova led until the 300m mark in search of the 100/200/400 treble before the Hungarian took over to come home in 4:06.56.

Seemanova was 0.16 behind for silver in 4:06.72 with Portugal’s Francisca Martins claiming bronze in 4:10.94.

“In the current stage we thought I cannot go under 4:08 here on a normal day, “said Kesely.

“But mental things kick in and if you have positive thoughts, those can give a huge  push which can mean you improve a further 1.5sec.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

Helena Rosendahl Bach upgraded Roma 2022 silver to gold as she led throughout to win the 200m butterfly.

The Dane, who won silver at the Worlds in Doha, touched in 2:07.88 ahead of reigning champion Lana Pudar (2:08.15) and Boglarka Telegdy Kapas, whose time of 2:08.22 was inside the cut for Paris where she will compete in her final Olympics.

Rosendahl Bach said: “It was the plan to swim the race this way and it worked. I’m really happy with this.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

No Polish woman had ever made the trip to the 50m breaststroke podium, let alone the top step, before Belgrade 2024.

However, Dominika Sztandera changed all that when she won the title in 30.55, 0.10 ahead of Finland’s Veera Kivirinta who clocked 30.65.

Olivia Klint Ipsa of Sweden was third in 30.90.

“My focus was on doing a PB, on my technique, and not on who swims next to me and what they are doing,” said Sztandera. “Then I looked at the scoreboard, realised I won and I’m still in shock ever since.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

A 47.58 anchor leg by Heiko Gigler propelled Austria from third to first in the men’s medley relay as the quartet claimed the final title of Belgrade 2024.

Austria got the touch in a thrilling finish in 3:33.41, ahead of Poland (3:33.44) and long-time leaders Ukraine, who clocked 3:33.50 for bronze as 0.09 separated the first three home.

Poland won the women’s title in 3:58.71, ahead of Hungary (4:01.50) and Denmark (4:02.03).

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