SPORTS

World champion proves class once more at the Europeans

One year after winning a gold medal at the World Championships in Montreal in the men’s 50-meter backstroke, Greece’s Aris Grigoriadis returned to the spotlight yesterday with a bronze medal at the European Swimming Championships, this time in an event over a length of 100 meters. Along the way, he broke his own national record. Grigoriadis, who does not consider the 100-meter backstroke to be his strongest event, got off to a fabulous start in yesterday’s final in Budapest. The Greek swimmer spearheaded the pack of finalists to the midway mark in 26.16 seconds but slowed down late in the return lap to surrender his lead late and finish third for the bronze medal. Nevertheless, Grigoriadis set a new national record with a time of 54.34 seconds. The country’s previous best, his own, had stood at 54.51 seconds. Russia’s Arkady Vyatchanin won the gold medal in 53.50 seconds, a new Championship record. Austrian swimmer Markus Rogan ended second with a time of 54.07. In post-competition comments, Grigoriadis admitted going to Budapest with the objective of winning a medal in this event, while adding that he was not entirely satisfied by his time in the final. «I wanted a time of about 54.20 seconds, but 54.34 is also good. It was a really fast race and the Russian [Vyatchanin] was unbeatable. I had to do the first 50 meters really fast to stay in the race,» said Grigoriadis. «I’ve achieved my first objective and am now heading for the next one, which is the 50 meters [backstroke],» he added. The Thessaloniki-based swimmer admitted that, these days, he was more focused on the 100-meter backstroke, which is an Olympic event. The 50-meter backstroke is not included on the Olympic agenda. Grigoriadis’s bronze medal is Greece’s first ever in an individual men’s event and third overall at the Europeans, not including synchronized swimming. The feat follows bronze medals in the men’s 4×200 freestyle in Berlin in 2002 and women’s 100-meter freestyle two years ago with Nery-Madey Niangkouara, who triumphed yesterday, too. Niangkouara qualified for the women’s 100-meter freestyle final, scheduled for today. She ended second in her semifinal heat with a time of 54.63 seconds, a new national record that breaks her own – 54.81 – set at the Athens Olympics. Niangkouara goes into the final as the second fastest qualifier. «I’m very pleased. I wanted to break that record because I hadn’t clocked times of this standard following the Athens Olympics, but, then again, qualifying for the final was determined by fast times,» said Niangkouara, a bronze medal winner in the same event at the Europeans in Madrid two years ago. «I’m in good shape,» she added, without elaborating, when asked to make a prediction about today’s final. Another Greek swimmer, 25-year-old Yiannis Kokkodis, made it to today’s men’s 200-meter medley final as the sixth-fastest qualifier with a time of 2:02.34. He ended fourth in his semifinal heat.