Greece wins fourth bronze at Europeans in Budapest

Nery-Madey Niangkouara won a bronze at the European Swimming Championships in the women’s 100-meter freestyle yesterday, a contest that produced a new world record from the winner, Germany’s Britta Steffen. Dutch swimmer Maarleen Veldhuis won the silver medal. Steffen timed 53.30 seconds to beat the old mark of 53.42 seconds set by Australia’s Lisbeth Lenton earlier this year in Melbourne. There was a new record for Niangkouara, too, at national level. The Greek bronze medalist’s time of 54.48 seconds broke the previous record of 54.63 seconds, her own, set in the semifinals. The 23-year-old Niangkouara, who qualified for the final with the second-fastest time, had also won a bronze medal in the same event at the Europeans in Madrid two years ago. «I’ve remained steady in third place in Europe, in a very difficult event. The good thing is that I’ve reduced my times considerably, even though I was aiming to do even better. I would have been happier with a time of about 54.20 seconds, but that doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied,» she said. It came right on time for the 23-year-old swimmer who had considered quitting competition last year after finishing seventh at the Worlds in Montreal. Following yesterday’s final, when she was asked whether retirement was still a possibility, Niangkouara responded: «I’m the type of person that looks as far as short-term objectives. If all goes well, we’re now looking at the World Championships in Melbourne next year, and then we’ll think about the Beijing Olympics.»  A second Greek finalist competing yesterday, Yiannis Kokkodis, ended fifth in the men’s 200-meter medley final. He was the sixth-fastest qualifier. «Considering the conditions, fifth place is satisfying, and the time was good,» noted Kokkodis, who said he was involved in a minor motorcycle accident less than a month ago that interrupted his training schedule for a week. Greece has now tallied four bronze medals at Budapest’s Europeans in swimming and synchronized swimming. Prior to yesterday’s triumph by Niangkouara, Greece won two medals in synchronized swimming last weekend, in the solo and duet events, and another on Tuesday with Aris Grigoriadis capturing third place in the 100-meter backstroke. Grigoriadis, the world champion in the men’s 50-meter backstroke, will be looking for a second medal in Budapest in today’s backstroke over the distance of 50 meters. He has high hopes for gold. The 21-year-old swimmer, who feels that this is his strongest event, was the fastest qualifier for today’s final with a time of 25.32 seconds in last night’s semifinals. Yiannis Drymonakos, another Greek finalist competing today, will do battle in the men’s 200-meter butterfly final. He, too, is a medal contender. Drymonakos goes in as the third-fastest qualifier with a time of 1:56.99, a new national record set by the swimmer in his semifinal heat yesterday. A country with minimal tradition in competitive swimming, Greece won its first ever medal at the Europeans in Berlin in 2002, a bronze medal produced by the men’s 4×200 freestyle team. Niangkouara repeated the success two years later with bronze in the 100-meter freestyle.

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