Swimming: Adlington all smiles as Britain rule in the pool

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The Independent Online

Rebecca Adlington and the women's medley relay squad were both crowned European champions as Great Britain claimed five medals in the final session to take their overall total to 18 in Budapest.

Adlington returned from the disappointment of her seventh place in the 800m freestyle to win the 400m while the women's 4x100m medley relay successfully defended their title following the disqualification of Russia.

All eyes were on the double Olympic champion Adlington, even more so given the withdrawal of the world champion Federica Pellegrini. But it was the Frenchwoman Ophélie Cyrielle Etienne who took the lead as she set off at a blistering pace with Adlington and 800m and 1500m champion Lotte Friis in pursuit. The Briton had caught up by the final turn and touched in four minutes 4.55 seconds, 0.85sec ahead.

Adlington said: "That meant so much to me. It's better to come back here smiling than crying like I did after the 800m. That was such a tough race, it's all mental and my head was messed up – I knew I could go faster than that.

"I've got to stop worrying about other things – I just relaxed then and really enjoyed that race. The pressure has been huge but I'm not that type of person. I keep myself to myself," she told BBC Sport. "Everybody's expecting so much of me – I don't want to let people down but I let myself down when I think about everybody else who I'm letting down."

The world silver medallist, Jo Jackson, whose season has been decimated by illness and asthma, was fifth in 4min 09.14sec.

Not to be outdone, the women's medley relay squad claimed gold in the very next race after their initial silver medal was upgraded. Gemma Spofforth, winner of a gold and silver in Budapest, gave the team a clear lead on the backstroke leg before Kate Haywood, the 50m breaststroke silver medallist, was caught by the double champion Yuliya Efimova.

Halsall, who was reluctantly swimming the butterfly leg, brought the quartet just about level but Amy Smith was just edged out by the Russians. However, a faulty changeover meant it was the British who ended up at the top of the podium. Halsall said: "This has been brilliant. Last time I came to the Europeans I got one medal, so to come away with five is incredible."

Spofforth, though, added: "We wanted to win it in our own way and I'm a little bit disappointed that we didn't."

Halsall got the session off to a good start when she claimed her fourth medal of the competition in the 50m freestyle, with her effort of 24.67sec good enough for third and just 0.01sec off the silver medal position with Therese Alshammar first home.

Haywood clinched the silver in the 50m breaststroke to go some way to making amends for her disqualification in the 100m. The 23-year-old, who is still not fully fit following hip surgery, was a clear second in 31.12sec with Yuliya Efimova in a class of her own as she completed a 50m-100m double.