The 32nd European Championships opened yesterday with gold in a Berlin velodrome for Katinka Hosszu.
The meet is being held at the Europa-park sports complex in the German capital, not in one of the two permanent 50m pools. Instead, a temporary, 10-lane pool has been installed in the velodrome.
Steeped banks more accustomed to hosting Germany’s top track cyclists are instead bearing witness to European’s elite swimmers while the roof looks like a flying saucer about to land.
The whirr of wheels on wood has been replaced by the sound of swimmers cutting through the water, the slap of feet on the walls as they turn.
The young German supporters – the DSV Jugend – were easily spotted in their bright yellow T-shirts.
They were massed in the front rows along the pool and they banged their drums, chanted their chants, waved their flags and clacked their clackers.
They even increased the decibel level with the arrival of mascot Drops, a blue water drop with pink arms and legs, who marched around the pool, orchestrating the crowd.
Drops heralded the start of the programme by dancing to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. At times he was a little too close to the pool for comfort. However, any accidents were averted.
Katinka was the first Arena swimmer to win an individual title and was mobbed by the press in the mixed zone, where journalists interview athletes after their races.
The ‘Iron Lady’ inched her way around in demand from television from different countries and conducting interviews in Hungarian and English.
Sarah Sjostrom lowered the 50m butterfly championship record she had set in the morning and credited it to a change in training after previously training alone. “There are lots of boys in the group as well,” she laughed.
Russia and Italy were also on the mark in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay with silver and bronze.
It proved to Filippo Magnini that age cannot wither him. “It was a good race with the three young guys on the team. They pushed me very much but that was the same as what I did when I was very young. I also pushed the older ones.”