Van Almsick in gold medal vanguard

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Swimming

Franziska van Almsick claimed the first two gold medals in her quest for an unprecedented seven titles at the European Championships in Vienna yesterday.

The 17-year-old German began with a commanding win in the opening women's 100 metres freestyle and anchored Germany to victory in the 4x200 metres freestyle relay. Van Almsick, who won six golds and a silver at the last European championships in Sheffield in 1993, quickly established a clear lead in the 100m freestyle, going into the turn half a second clear and easing through to win in 55.34sec.

Karen Pickering from Ipswich, came in third behind her to collect the first of two bronze medals, giving Britain a promising start to the event's in the pool. She was beaten by only three-hundredths of a second for the silver by Denmark's Mette Jacobsen in 56.05sec.

Later she helped Britain's 4x200m relay team to third place, again behind Van Almsick. The German inherited a huge lead from her team-mates and took her anchor leg easily, conserving her strength for potentially more taxing races ahead. She also defends the 50m and 200m freestyle and two more relay titles and will contest the 400m freestyle for the first time at this level.

Krisztina Egerszegi, who captured four individual golds at the 1993 championships, prevailed in the 400m individual medley for the third successive championships. Egerszegi, the Olympic 200m backstroke champion in 1988 at the age of 14, retained the title in 4:40.33, ahead of Ireland's Michelle Smith (4:42.81) and Cathleen Rund, of Germany, (4:46.22).

The 21-year-old Hungarian, who holds seven titles from the last two European Championships, contests only the 400m individual medley and 200m backstroke here.

Her countrymen, Karoly Guttler and Norbert Rozsa, respectively world record holder and world champion, were beaten in the men's 100m breaststroke by Fred deBurghgraeve, of Belgium, who won in 1:01.12. Guttler took silver in 1:01.38 and Andrei Korneev, of Russia, collected the bronze.

Jani Sievinen achieved the biggest upset of the day when he defeated fellow Finn Antti Kasvio, the world champion, in the men's 200m freestyle. Sixth at the final turn, nearly a second off the pace, Sievinen charged the final length to touch 0.14sec ahead of the Olympic and world silver medallist, Anders Holmertz of Sweden.

n The international swimming federation, Fina, the sport's ruling body, said yesterday it might ask for national lists of potential Olympic swimmers for comprehensive dope testing before the Atlanta Games.

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