Golden night for Hungary in the pool
Athletes from Hungary picked up two golds and two bronzes on a packed evening that featured eight finals at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Natatorium.
Liliana Szilagyi kicked off the Hungarian gold rush when she won the women’s 200m butterfly and bemused the crowd with her wild, post-race celebratory dance on the starting blocks. “I said this morning it would be Hungary’s day today, and it is,” Szilagyi said, bouncing up and down before a packed mixed zone. “I made a promise to myself that I was going to win a Youth Olympic Games gold medal and I am just so, so, so happy now. I’ve done it. That won’t be the last Hungarian medal of this meet, I promise you,” she said.
And it was not, as her compatriots Benjamin Gratz and Norbert Szabo took gold and bronze respectively in the men’s 200m individual medley, split by silver medal-winning Lithuanian Povilas Strazdas.
Szabo was disappointed with his swim, but Gratz was understandably upbeat on behalf of the team. “We are happy that Hungary is doing so well here but there is a long way to go. There are still many days and we can’t celebrate just yet,” he said.
Anna Sztankovics was the other Hungarian medal-winner of the night, taking bronze in the women’s 50m breaststroke.
Meanwhile, Russia and Italy each picked up two gold medals. Evgeny Rylov (RUS) and Simone Sabbioni (ITA) tied in the opening race of the night, the men’s 100m backstroke, in 54.24 seconds. “I have never been first with another person, I’m very happy,” Sabbioni said.
“When I finished and I saw the ‘1’ I couldn’t believe it. I thought that I arrived second. I could see that we were all at the same level and I just gave it everything. This is the most important achievement of my life.”
Italy’s second gold came courtesy of Nicolangelo di Fabio, who won the men’s 200m freestyle. “I am over the moon now because before the race I didn’t think I would be able to get the gold medal,” Fabio said.
Anton Chupkov won Russia’s second gold of the night in the men’s 100 breaststroke. Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte picked up gold in the women’s 50m breaststroke to add to her London 2012 gold medal in the 100m distance.
Patrick Mulcare (USA) competed in three finals and was expected to swim strongly in the men’s 200m individual medley, for which he qualified in second place. But he finished fourth in that event after coming last in his two other races, the men’s 200m freestyle and the men’s 100m backstroke. He admitted he simply ran out of energy. “I can’t do three events in a day with this turnaround and I’ve learned that now. I finished and felt like I was about to puke. I felt like I was completely dead,” said Mulcare.
The most nail-biting race of the night was the women’s 100m backstroke final, in which Clara Smiddy (USA) won gold, one hundredth of a second ahead of Jessica Fullalove (GBR), with Bobbi Gichard (NZL) just two hundredths of a second further behind.
Smiddy said it took several slow motion seconds to realise she had won. “On the second lap when I was coming home there was just water everywhere and I had no idea where I was in the field and I just wanted to get my hand out there and touch the wall, wherever it was,” she said. “When I saw the number one up there I just didn’t connect with my name and I went, ‘Uh, oh’. I wasn’t sure and then I looked over at my team and I went, ‘Yes’.”
Leaping straight back into the pool after the 100m backstroke victory ceremony, Fullalove picked up another silver medal within 15 minutes, leading the Great Britain women’s 4x100m medley team that finished second to China’s powerful quartet. Australia secured bronze.
Earlier in the day Fullalove had praised the support of her parents, Rod and Suzanne, who have travelled to Nanjing to watch her swim. “I reckon my mum and dad will be happy with that, though deep down I really wanted two gold medals tonight. But getting silver just now with amazing team-mates to make it two tonight is just the best feeling.”