Swimming’s glamor German couple Paul Biedermann and his girlfriend Britta Steffen took gold and silver medals at the European Championships on Wednesday.
Biedermann, the 2009 400m freestyle world champion and world-record holder in the event as well, added the 200m freestyle crown to the 400m he won on Monday, while world-record holder Steffen had to be content with second in the women’s 100m freestyle.
Biedermann, 25, showed great tenacity to hold off perennial French rival Amaury Leveaux and win in an unremarkable time of 1minute, 46.27 seconds.
“I wasn’t at 100 percent, but the time isn’t too bad,” Biedermann said. “Amaury Leveaux and myself know each other well, we are old acquaintances.”
Steffen, Olympic champion in the 50m and 100m freestyle, had to give second best to Sweden’s 100m butterfly European and world champion Sarah Sjoestroem, who was winning her first title in the event.
“I am determined to return to Germany and get some hard training in before the Olympics,” said Steffen, who looked in better shape than at last year’s world championships.
While Steffen and Biedermann are hardened performers, there was a great performance from a face of the future in Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri, who aged just 17, won the 1,500m freestyle title in what is his first senior championships.
Paltrineri, whose hero is Australia’s five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe, also went under the 15-minute barrier for the first time and posted the third-fastest time in the world this year of 14:48.92.
In doing so he left his opponents trailing in his wake, with silver medalist Gergo Kis of Hungary almost 10 seconds back.
“I wanted to go under 15 minutes, but I am really surprised by my time,” Paltrineri said.
“My strategy was to swim out in front, because I wanted to qualify for the Olympics, and that is what I have done,” added the Italian, referring to the Italians, like the Germans, using the championships as qualifiers for the Games.
While Kis could not deliver gold for the home crowd, his compatriot Laszlo Cseh did not disappoint, sending them into raptures as he won his fourth successive European title in the 200m medley.