Simona Quadarella 8:20 Triumph Makes Italian Ace The First To Keep European 800 Free Crown Since Last Of 8 GDR Golds In 1989

2021-05-18 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Simona Quadarella on the way to a title retained - Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Simona Quadarella became the first swimmer to keep the women’s European 800m freestyle crown since the last of eight-straight golds for the GDR in 1989 when she stopped the clock at 8:20.23.

The podium was completed by Russians Anastasia Kirpichnikova and Anna Egorova in 8:21.86 and 8:26.56 respectively.

Quadarella is not the first to win the title twice since the days of the GDR: Boglarka Kapas, the Hungarian who switched to 200 ‘fly top lift the World crown in 2019, took the 2012 title, lost it to Britain’s Jazz Carlin in 2014 and then claimed it back in 2016, the year Carlin went onto take silver in the 400m and 800m behind American Katie Ledecky at the Rio Olympic Games.

At Glasgow 2018, Quadarella, coached by Christian Minotti at CC Aniene, clocked 8:16.45, good for gold by 6sec. Today was a closer affair, as Kirpichnikova, coached by Dmitry Shalagin at Sputnik, and Egorova, out on the wing in 1, kept the pressure up to the 500m mark before the Italian 1500m World champion pressed the pace, Egorova the first to feel it.

The Italian defender led from go to gold. Out in 2:03.24, through half-way in 4:09.49, Quadarella, take away the dive, produced a negative split, as did Kirpichnikova, dive or no dive, on 4:11.11 at 400m and 8:21.86 by the time she claimed the first Russian medal ahead of Egorova, who is coached by Laure-Manaudou mentor Philippe Lucas in France.

Quadarella, who may not have needed to do a full rest for this one on the way to Tokyo, is only the second Italian to claim the 800m crown since 1970, Novella Calligaris having been confined to silver and bronze in 1970 and 1974 by different GDR opponents before a long wait until 2008, when Alessia Filippi became the first from her country to claim European 800 gold.

Quadarella’s second triumph today puts Italy one gold clear of Hungary on the all-time medals table with three, compared to the 8 wins for the GDR and the 5 for Germans in the 1990s, including two to former East German swimmers.

Back in 2017 in the same pool at the Duna Arena, Quadarella made her first global senior podium with bronze in the World-title 1500m freestyle fight behind two Olympic champions, freestyle 200-800 sweeper Katie Ledecky and all-rounder Mireia Belmonte, who became the first Spanish woman ever to claim Olympic gold in the pool at Rio with victory in the 200m butterfly.

When Quadarella Gave Ledecky A Great Race

Two years on at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, Ledecky out of the 1500m through illness, Quadarella stepped up to gold and then, when the American made it back to the water for the defence of the 800m freestyle, helped to produce one of the thrills of the entire week. Not at her best, Ledecky could not produce one of her epics but the Italian’s presence and proximity pushed the American to draw on every reserve of work and character in her.

The result was swim racing at its best, Ledecky’s fourth 800m world title making a good memory for her to take away from Gwangju instead of thoughts of 400m defeat by Ariarne Titmus, of Australia, and the down-heartedness of a campaign knocked by ill-health. The 800m battle drew Quadarella to her career best of 8:14.99, making her the fourth fastest in history.

Women’s 100m butterfly: Snap For Wattel & Ntountounaki

Anna Ntountounakis (GRE) and Marie Wattel (FRA) a snap for gold, with bronze for Louise Hansson (SWE) in the 100m butterfly – Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

The queen of Europe and global pace, Olympic champion Sarah Sjostrom is away nursing a chipped elbow she sustained in a fall on the ice at home in Sweden back in winter. In her absence, Greece celebrated a first at the helm of a nervy race in which the two top challengers missed their top pace: Anna Ntountounakis, coached by Olga Yasianovich at Energy Standard, is the 100 ‘fly champion of 2021, together with France’s Marie Wattel, both on 57.37, Sweden’s Louise Hansson, on 57.56, after having clocked 56s this year, including a 56.73 in semis yesterday.

Ntountounaki said: “I’m so-so happy! This is unbelievable, I could never imagine that I could be first. That was my first European medal in long-course. Last year was very hard for me with Covid, the postponement of the Olympic Games. It was really tough psychologically, we couldn’t train for two months but I’m so proud of myself to have made a comeback after all of that.”

Wattel was conscious that gold might have been her’s alone had she matched her best: “I thought I should have swum faster in order to win. And I also thought I would swim faster than this. But it’s a final and what matters is to touch in first and I’m really happy. It’s good a step for Tokyo but there are more improvements to be done. ”

Hansson saw the ups and downs of her result: “Of course I’m happy since this is my first individual medal. At the same time, I’m a little bit disappointed because of the time.”

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