GLASGOW (Reuters) - An impressive cast headed by triple Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu and four other Rio de Janeiro gold medalists will give the swimming program, which starts on Friday, a quality feel at the inaugural multi-sport European Championships in Glasgow.
Hosszu, Hungary’s ‘Iron Lady’ who won three golds and a silver in Rio, is out to underline her place as one of the greatest all-round swimmers in history after a turbulent year in which she separated from her husband and coach, Shane Tusup.
The 29-year-old will compete in the 100 and 200 meters backstroke and the 200m individual medley as she seeks to take her remarkable tally of European golds to 30 in both long course and short course championships.
The Hungarian, who has won the 200m individual medley at the last four European championships, prompted surprise by opting not to defend her 400m medley title in Glasgow.
The home crowd will be counting on British Olympic champion Adam Peaty, who goes in the 100 meters breaststroke heats on Friday, to add to the eight European golds he won in London two years ago and Berlin in 2014.
The 23-year-old’s breaststroke invincibility was ended by his first defeat in four years at the Commonwealth Games in April, beaten by South African Cameron van der Burgh over 50 meters, but Peaty, who will compete in four events, feels he has only grown stronger from the experience.
“It’s almost like a new lease on swimming for me, a new lease on my career, a new lease on me in myself,” said Peaty. “Ever since then I’ve trained and been so much happier, so much better.”
The other reigning Olympic champions in action will be Italy’s 1,500 meters winner Gregorio Paltrinieri, Sweden’s 100m butterfly victor Sarah Sjoestrom, and Denmark’s Pernille Blume, who landed the unofficial title of world’s fastest woman with her 50m freestyle victory in Rio.
It is a decade since the all-conquering Sjoestrom made a sensational European Championship debut at 14, taking the 100m butterfly title in Eindhoven, but the memory of the win that launched her stellar career still warms her.
“I can’t believe 10 years have gone so quick. It’s amazing that I am still here and I have improved my swimming so much more than I could ever imagine,” said the woman who has gone on to annex 18 Olympic, world and European long course titles.
Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Toby Davis