Double triumph in the pool at Budapest

It was a successful weekend for the national team at the European Swimming Championships in Budapest, with two bronze medals coming Greece’s way in synchronized swimming’s solo and combined events. Sixteen-year-old Natalia Anthopoulou led the way on Saturday with a 93.900 score in the solo event’s final for the first of Greece’s two bronze medals. It was a repeat of her result in May at the European junior championships in Bonn. «This is a great success for me,» Anthopoulou said. Natalia Ishchenko, a silver medalist in 2004 who qualified in first place in Wednesday’s free and technical routines, won the gold medal with a score of 98.400 points. Spain’s Gemma Mengual won silver with 97.700 points. Greece’s other bronze medal was won in yesterday’s duet event with Eleftheria Ftouli and Evanthia Makriyianni ending third in the final with a 94.00-point performance. It was the first-ever medal for Greece in this category. Ftouli, 25, announced her retirement from competition later last night. Olympic and world champions Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova of Russia won their third consecutive European synchronized swimming duet title and their second of the day with a score of 98.800. Earlier, they had featured in the Russian octet which won the free combination title. Spain’s Mengual and Paola Tirados won silver in the duet with a 97.500 score. Commenting on the medal triumph, Makriyianni admitted that she and her team partner, Ftouli, traveled to Budapest with a bronze medal as their objective. Makriyianni, 20, joined the national team following the Athens Olympics two years ago in place of the outgoing Christina Thalassinidou, an exceptionally talented athlete hailing from the former Soviet Union, who helped spearhead synchronized swimming in Greece. «We were expecting this [duet] medal. It was ripe and the capabilities were greater than they were in the solo event, because Natalia [Anthopoulou] is still young,» remarked the national team’s coach, Anastasia Guecheva, comparing Greece’s two medal-winning performances. «Until now, the road has been very tough, but this medal came at the right time and paves the way for more success.» (Kathimerini, Reuters, AP)