Rupprath lowers European record in preliminary heat

BERLIN, Reuters

Germany’s Thomas Rupprath set a European record in the 50 meters backstroke at the European swimming championships on Wednesday a day after taking the silver medal in the butterfly over the same distance.

Rupprath swam 50 meters backstroke in a time of 25.20 seconds in the preliminary heat before his home crowd, lowering the European record of 25.26 seconds set by team mate Stev Theloke at the German championships in May.

Theloke, who won the gold in the 100 meters backstroke on Tuesday, swam in the next heat and finished in 25.54 seconds, the second-fastest time of the morning session. The two Germans will battle again in the semifinals in the evening.

The 25-year old Rupprath had been a favorite for the 50 meters butterfly final on Tuesday but finished second to Finland’s Jere Hard, who won in a European record time of 23.50.

Rupprath, from the western German town of Wuppertal, has yet to win a major international title, although he was second in the 50 meters backstroke at the 2001 world championships and second in the same event at the 1999 European championships.

European record holder Franck Esposito of France earned a spot in the semifinals of the 200 meters butterfly with a comfortable second place finish in the preliminary round.

Esposito, who set the European record of one minute 54.62 seconds in April, was second to Ukrainian Denis Silantyev.

Silantyev, Esposito’s toughest European opponent with a personal best of 106.29, was clocked at 109.01 on Wednesday and Esposito finished in 109.19.

In the women’s 200 meters medley, defending champion and European record holder Yana Klochkova of Ukraine took third in the heats in a time of 206.69, behind Slovenian Alenka Kejzar and Hanna Scherba of Belarus.

Klochkova set the European record of 200.68 with her gold medal victory at the Sydney Olympics.

Wednesday morning’s heats are a prelude to the evening showdown in the 100 meters freestyle final that pits Dutch sprinter Pieter van den Hoogenband against Russian Alexander Popov.

Van den Hoogenband swam the second-fastest 100 meters freestyle ever in the semifinals on Tuesday, 47.97, just off his world record of 47.84 set at the 2000 Olympics. Former world record holder Popov was a distant second on Tuesday.