Belgrade 2024: Olympic and World champions to churn up the water with European titles and Paris tickets on the line

Published On: June 16, 2024

Credit to:  European Aquatics

Olympic, World and European champions will take to the water at the Sports and Recreational Center Milan Gale Muškatirović where the pool programme runs from 17-23 June at the European Aquatics Championships Belgrade 2024.

Olympic qualification is also within the grasp of those swimmers who have not yet made the cut for Paris 2024 with the qualification period ending on 23 June, the final day of competition in Belgrade.

Rubbing shoulders with the elite will be several younger swimmers who have tasted success on the junior stage.

David Popovici lit up the Foro Italico at Roma 2022.

The Romanian scorched to a 100m freestyle world record of 46.86, slicing 0.05 from Cesar Cielo’s standard that had stood since the super-suit era of 2009.

With that, the 17-year-old became the youngest European man – and the second-youngest overall – to break the world record over two lengths.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Popovici followed that with a stunning 200 free victory in 1:42.97 to become the third-fastest man in history behind Paul Biedermann (1:42.00) and Michael Phelps (1:42.96) and the swiftest in a textile suit.

While he may not have subsequently soared to those heights, Popovici went 1:44.74 to break the Mare Nostrum record last month and posted 47.86 at the Romanian Championships in April.

He is entered into the 50, 100 and 200 free plus the men’s 4×200 freestyle relay.

Vladislav Bukhov is the fastest entry into the dash with a time of 21.38, a Ukrainian record set in the semifinals of the World Championships before he went on to secure the title in Doha.

Second behind Popovici when he broke the 100m freestyle world on that momentous day in August 2022 was Kristof Milak.

The Hungarian went 47.47 for a national record and, like Popovici, he is entered into the 50, 100 and 200 free in the Serbian capital.

Hungarian teammate Nandor Nemeth – who won World bronze in Doha – also awaits in the two-length race.

Danys Rapsys, who won silver in Doha, has the second-fastest entry time behind Popovici in the 200 free of 1:44.96, the pair the only men inside 1:45.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Milak will also contest the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly, in which he is the Olympic champion and world record-holder.

A hotly-anticipated meeting with Noè Ponti awaits over 100m with Milak and the Swiss Olympic silver and bronze medallists respectively.

Ponti has been on shuddering form so far this year, firing off 50.16 at the national championships in April to go second in the 2024 rankings and sixth all-time.

He recalled his silver medal behind the Hungarian last time out in Rome in an interview with European Aquatics.

Milak though has given a hint of what to expect with a time of 50.75 for a Mare Nostrum record last month as well as 1:53.94 over 200m.

Joining Milak and Ponti in the shorter race will be the Hungarian’s teammate Hubert Kos with Polish twins Kryzysztof and Michal Chmielewski awaiting in the 200.

Other highlights of the men’s programme include double Olympic medallist Mykhailo Romanchuk in the 800 and 1500 free, Apostolos Christou, the Greek backstroker who won World 100 bronze in Doha and the 200IM tussle between Hungarians Kos and Gabor Zombori and Olympic bronze medallist Jeremy Desplanches.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Some fine racing also awaits in the women’s programme.

Lana Pudar made history when became the first swimmer from Bosnia and Herzegovina to clinch a European long-course title when she won the 200m butterfly at Roma 2022, while also taking 100m bronze.

Since then, the 18-year-old has won World 200 fly bronze in Doha as well as armfuls of European Junior medals including the butterfly treble at the 2023 edition in Belgrade.

Pudar has set her sights on becoming the first athlete from her country to claim an Olympic medal in any sport with Paris just weeks away.

Before then, she’ll contest the 100 and 200 fly with the leading entry time in both events.

The teenager renews acquaintance with Helena Rosendahl Bach in the longer race, four months after the pair shared the podium in Doha.

The Dane won silver on that day in February, one place ahead of Pudar, and a battle royale could be on the cards in Belgrade.

Rosendahl Bach is keen to land a maiden continental title, as she told European Aquatics.

Also in the field is Hungarian Boglarka Kapas, winner of the 2019 World title.

Credit to:  European Aquatics

Anastasia Gorbenko has written and rewritten the Israeli record books of late.

The 20-year-old emerged from the Mare Nostrum tour with new standards in the 200m backstroke (2:08.54), 100m breaststroke (1:06.69), 200m individual medley (2:08.55) and 400IM (4:34.79).

Gorbenko is seeking a third straight crown in the short medley following victories in Budapest in 2021 and Rome a year later.

She became the first Israeli swimmer to win a medal at the World Championships with silver in the 400IM in Doha.

The long medley promises to be a fascinating tussle in Belgrade with Gorbenko and 15-year-old Vivien Jackl spearheading the entries.

Jackl won the European Junior title in Belgrade last year and announced herself on the senior stage with a winning time of 4:34.96 at the Hungarian Championships in April, a European Junior record.

Credit to: Credit to: European Aquatics Championships

Eneli Jefimova is another highly-successful junior who has already made her mark on the senior stage.

The 17-year-old had already claimed seven World and European junior breaststroke titles, including two in Belgrade last year, when she arrived in Otopeni for the European Short-Course Championships in Otopeni.

There she became the first Estonian to win a European gold in the pool when she claimed an emotional 100m breaststroke victory as she upgraded her silver from Kazan 2021.

Jefimova will contest the 100m and 200m breaststroke in Belgrade with Thea Blomsterberg of Denmark the top seed in the latter and defending champion Lisa Mamie also set to compete.

As well as Kapas, a strong Hungarian contingent includes Ajna Kesely, winner of six European medals stretching back to London 2016, Dalma SebestyenDora Molnar and Nikolett Padar.

Other athletes to watch out for include Danielle Hill of Swim Ireland, who recently booked her trip to Paris 2024; Sara Junevik, relay silver medallist with Sweden at Roma 2022; Barbora Seemanova, the 200 free champion at Budapest 2020, and Merve Tuncel, the eight-time European Junior champion.

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