Swimming: Duo maintain their dominance: Impressive conclusion for European Championships

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BEFORE the European Championships began, evidence suggested two women were likely to make off with the gold, and when they concluded last night, the suspicions had been confirmed. Krisztina Egerszegi and Franziska van Almsick have hoarded away most of the metal this week and their races have rarely been close contests.

They took their joint tally of individual victories to seven out of 13 events yesterday when Egerszegi won the 200 metres butterfly and 200m backstroke and van Almsick, the 15- year-old German, took the 50m freestyle. Only in the 100m butterfly, where she won silver, was the latter found to be fallible.

Yesterday was resolutely Egerszeki's. The 18-year-old Hungarian was a triple gold medallist at the Barcelona Olympics but extended her repertoire to the 200m butterfly for Sheffield and recorded her first win in the event at a major championships. Almost as a matter of course she lowered her personal best by more than two seconds.

In theory it should have been her weakest event but Egerszegi was a yard ahead half-way down the second 50 metres, extended her lead, and finished more than two seconds in front. Germany's Katrin Jaeke won the other race for the silver.

In the 200m backstroke she was even more dominant. She was fastest in the morning heats by nearly four seconds and the final was probably a formality even though Russia's Nina Zhivanevskaya set off at a world pace that ultimately lead to her destruction. Egerszegi looked across, was surprised to see someone within three feet of her, and burnt off the challenge with a time of 2:09.12.

While Egerszegi is undoubtedly the most versatile women's swimmer in the world, van Almsick is probably the fastest. Her chosen stroke is the freestyle and yesterday she added the 50m to the 100m and 200m titles she had won earlier in the week.

In the men's equivalent on Saturday the proceedings had reached farcical proportions when three of the eight finalists were disqualified and the portents were not good yesterday when a false start was called. . But the event went comparatively smoothly and just two competitors fell to video evidence: France's Catherine Plewinski and Austria's Judith Draxler.

With women off to fliers on each flank, van Almsick should have been struggling to get to the far end first yet she still clocked 25.53sec to lower her personal best for the second time of the day which meant, with relays included, she had been on the winners' rostrum six times.

'Now I'm looking forward to the party,' she said, where the music, we were assured, would not include her country's anthem. Even the Germans have heard it enough.

Nick Gillingham apart, 'God Save The Queen' has retained its novelty value and there was never much chance of the near pristine tape getting an airing yesterday even though, with nine swimming medals, these championships have represented Britain's second-best European haul.

Kathy Osher and Joanne Deakins finished sixth and seventh respectively in the 200m backstroke final, but the men's 4 x 100m medley relay team finished third when Martin Harris, Nick Gillingham, Mike Fibbens and Mark Foster broke the national record with 3min 41.66sec.

For Foster and Fibbens, two of the trio disqualified in the 50m final, it gave a bronze finish to championships which 24 hours earlier had seemed thoroughly black.

----------------------------------------------------------------- European Swimming Championships Results ----------------------------------------------------------------- Medals Table G S B Germany 15 6 8 Russia 12 12 5 Hungary 6 4 1 Finland 3 1 0 France 1 5 2 Great Britain 1 3 8 Spain 1 1 3 Italy 1 1 2 Netherlands 1 0 2 Belgium 1 0 0 Poland 1 0 0 Sweden 0 6 3 Ukraine 0 1 2 Norway 0 1 1 Romania 0 1 0 Slovakia 0 1 0 Czech Republic 0 0 2 Belarus 0 0 1 Croatia 0 0 1 Lithuania 0 0 1 Slovenia 0 0 1 -----------------------------------------------------------------