Events & Competitions
Written by: Elizabeth Byrnes at 21 August '14 0

Gregorio Paltrinieri was pretty in pink as he took a sledgehammer to the European 1,500m freestyle record.

The Italian was wearing the Limited Edition version of the Powerskin Carbon Flex, the suit clearly sitting well with the 19-year-old.

Easily identifiable in his grey suit with pink piping, Paltrinieri won in 14mins 39.93secs, the first time a European swimmer has gone under the 14:40 mark.

Franzisca van Almsick may have retired 10 years ago but her name still looms large in swimming. And especially so in Germany.

Now 36, Van Almsick hung up her goggles after the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

She made her Olympic debut aged 14 at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, winning four medals before going on to swim to a further six in Atlanta and Sydney.

The German competed in just two World Championships but won six medals – two of each colour – while there were also 21 visits to a European podium.

Not only was she the young figurehead of German sport, ‘Franzi’ was the face of re-unification as East met West in a newly-united Germany.

Out of the pool her striking looks aligned with her athletic prowess helped secure commercial deals that brought rich rewards.

Her legacy lives on. These days Van Almsick has a role campaigning for funding for young athletes.

At the Europa-Sportpark tonight – in the same complex where Van Almsick set a new 200m freestyle world record in 2002 – a young girl aged about 11 or 12 who was in the crowd was asked by the announcer if she knew of Van Almsick. “Yes,” she replied. “But not personally.”

Drops the mascot was on form again. He embraced officials on poolside and was especially drawn to the women – and they to him. He stood behind unsuspecting swimmers in warm-up and motioned as if to push them in. He forced the announcer on to the blocks.

Then his finest hour came when he gatecrashed the medallists’parade after the men’s 200m individual medley final.

He lay down in front of winner Laszlo Cseh and runners-up Philip Heintz and Roberto Pavoni as they were posing with their medals for photographers.

Then he ran behind them, his arms around all three. If you look closely tomorrow, Cseh may well look as though he has a giant blue cone growing out of his head.

No, it’s Drops.



Written by:

Elizabeth Byrnes

Liz swam with a local club in Sheffield, England, as a child before retiring at the grand old age of 12. Her lifelong love of the water, combined with a passion for travel, has seen Liz plunge into pools across the world. Liz spent 12 years with the Press Association reporting on swimming and athletics at Olympic and World level but is now fulfilling a dream as a freelance writer. When not in or around the water, she can be found hiking, running and cycling.