Sweden Wins Freestyle Swimming Relay
HELSINKI, Finland (AP) _ In the absence of four-time defending champion Germany, Sweden won the women’s 400-meter freestyle relay Monday night, nearly three seconds ahead of runner-up Italy at the European Swimming Championships.
Germany was a no-show because its leading freestyle swimmers, including Franziska van Almsick and Katrin Meissner, decided to skip the championships after securing Olympic berths in the recent German trials.
Despite Germany’s first absence in the women’s freestyle relay since the first European Championships in 1927, Germans dominated Monday’s competition, winning three golds and one silver medal in seven finals.
The Swedish quartet of Louise Johnke, Johanna Sjoberg, Anna-Karin Kammerling and Therese Alshammar was timed in 3 minutes, 42.38 seconds, in the relay.
``It was nice to win Sweden’s first relay gold in the European Championships after four successive silver medals,″ Sjoberg said.
Alexander Mesch was the most surprising German champion of the day, winning the one-meter springboard title after a poor showing in the preliminaries.
``I didn’t expect a medal today, let alone a gold,″ he said. ``I was nervous because I didn’t do well yesterday.″
Mesch amassed 370.53 points. Russia’s Dmitry Baibakov was second with 363.00 and Finland’s Joona Puhakka third with 347.16.
Russia regained the men’s 400 freestyle relay title with a narrow victory over Germany and France. The Russians, whose streak of three straight men’s freestyle wins was snapped by the Netherlands last year, was timed at 3:18.75.
Germany finished at 3:19.16, France at 3:20.37.
Italy’s Emiliano Brembilla won the men’s 400 freestyle at 3:48.56, beating Romania’s Dragos Coman by .13 seconds.
Defending champion Paul Palmer of Britain, the only swimmer in the final to use the new-wave bodysuit, finished third at 3:50.97.
Ukraine’s Yana Klochkova retained her title in the women’s 400 medley, beating Beatrice Caslaru of Romania by nearly two seconds at 4:39.78.
In the final race of the non-Olympic open water competition, Germany’s Peggy Buechse beat Edith van Dijk of the Netherlands by more than 2 1/2 minutes in the women’s 25-kilometer race.
Buechse, who also won the 5K race, covered the grueling distance at 5:22.11.1. Valeria Casprini of Italy was third.
Germany’s other gold medal came in another non-Olympic event, women’s synchronized platform diving. Anke Piper and Ute Wetzig won with 268.05 points. Russians Evgenia Olshevskaya and Svetlanta Timoshinina were second and Olga Lyeonova and Olena Zhupina of Ukraine third.