THE COMPETITION

Swimming features four different strokes, freestyle, backstroke, backstroke and butterfly, athletes can also race the individual medley events where they use all four. Besides the individual races, relay events are also part of the programme – here, besides the traditional events, the mixed relays made their debuts in 2016 and as a novelty (and so far only featured at the Europeans) the 4x200m free relay offers one more gold for the participants.

Pool events are held over distances ranging from 50 metres to 1,500 metres. In the morning session the heats are swum while the evening features the semi-finals and finals. Based on the results of preliminaries, athletes with the best times advance to the next stage.

In the longer distances (400m and beyond) and the relays, the top eight ranked athletes directly qualify to the final, which – with the exception of the 800m and 1,500m free – is held on the same day in the evening. In the 50m, 100m and 200m events the 16 fastest swimmers from the preliminaries qualify to the semi-finals, then the top two swimmers of both semis plus the four fastest proceed to the final, staged on the following day.

At the Europeans nations can enter up to four swimmers per event but only the top two may advance from the prelims, the others shall not go through even if they also finish in qualifying positions.

THE HISTORY

The history of swimming dates back to the Stone Age, becoming an organised sports discipline in the early 19th century. Prehistoric man learned to swim in order to cross rivers and lakes – we know this because cave paintings from the Stone Age depicting swimmers have been found in Egypt. Swimming was also referred to in Greek mythology.

Swimming was not widely practiced until the early 19th century, when the National Swimming Society of Great Britain began to hold competitions. Most early swimmers used breaststroke style or its variations.

Naturally, swimming was part of the very first modern Olympics in 1896 and it became a pillar of the Games together with athletics. Thirty years after the first Olympics, the European Championships were also launched which remained the solely major international competition for the European swimmers besides the Games till the first World Championships were held in 1973. This made the continental showcase one of the most highly appreciated aquatic events in the world and it has kept this rank in the swimming community till date.

THE BESTS IN EUROPE

Swimming is a traditional battlefield for the United States, Australia and the European nations, though in the past twenty years China joined Japan in challenging the others from Asia. Still, Europe, as a continent, has traditionally finish atop in terms of total number of medals and finalists among the others at the World Championships and Olympics.

Today this can be thanks for such superb classy swimmers as those shining at the latest edition of the World Championships in Gwangju (and most of them did it in Rio and in Budapest too), like the Brit breaststroke king Adam Peaty, Italy’s everlasting middle distance swimmer Federica Pellegrini, her compatriot, Gregorio Paltrinieri who had a brilliant 5-year unbeaten run in the 1500m, Sweden’s sprinting ace Sarah Sjostrom, Russian breaststroke phenomenon Yulia Efimova, Spain’s top flyer Mireia Belmonte and of course Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu who has an unparalleled unbeaten streak in the medley events since 2013 (2012 at the Europeans). And we already see the new wave coming, Florian Wellbrock from Germany, who claimed world titles both in the pool and in open water, the outstanding backstroker from Russia Kliment Kolesnikov and Hungary’s Kristof Milak who amazed the world by destroying Michael Phelps’ decade-old WR in the 200m fly.

THE DISCIPLINE IN HUNGARY

Since the very first Olympic champion in swimming’s history was a Hungarian, Alfred Hajos, past casts a huge obligation to our athletes. In fact, Hajos won two events in 1896, the 100m and 1200m free – sixteen years after the first-ever swimming competition was organised in Hungary, though it was rather a lake-crossing challenge between Balatonfured and Siofok.

The shiniest career of all belongs to Krisztina Egerszegi, till date she is the only female swimmer in history who claimed five individual Olympic gold medals between 1988 and 1996. Among the men, Tamas Darnyi stood out as a four-time Olympic and four-time world champion who has never lost a single international race in the medley events during his senior career, between 1985 and 1993. His coach, the legendary Tamas Szechy led generations of swimmers to the highest heights, like Sandor Wladar (the current president of the Hungarian federation), then Jozsef Szabo, Norbert Rozsa and Attila Czene, just to name the Olympic champions. Though one should not forget the brilliant 50-100m free double of Zoltan Halmay at the 1904 Olympics, Ferenc Csik’s legendary triumph in the 100m free at the Berlin Games in 1936, and the golden girls in 1952, when Eva Szekely and her teammates won 4 out of the 4 events swum in Helsinki.

Their worthy successors are Daniel Gyurta and Laszlo Cseh from the recent past (Cseh is by far the most decorated male swimmer in the history of the European Championships), and the greats of the present like Katinka Hosszu, Boglarka Kapas, David Verraszto and the others who managed to achieve Hungary’s best-ever performance at the 2016 Europeans in London with 10 golds, 4 silvers and 5 bronzes. In the past years Kristof Milak joined the army as he claimed his first major senior title at the Europeans in Glasgow 2018.

null

Most successful nations at the LEN EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS in swimming*

* Total medals won during the history of the LEN European Aquatics Championships (since the first edition held in 1926 in Budapest)

0
GER
0
RUS
0
GBR

* Total medals won during the history of the LEN European Aquatics Championships (since the first edition held in 1926 in Budapest)

0
GER
0
RUS
0
GBR