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Swimming: 'Iron Lady' holds firm to take European gold

Katinka Hosszu and Velimir Stjepanovic were the first individual winners on the opening night at the European Swimming Championships in Berlin.

BERLIN: Katinka Hosszu and Velimir Stjepanovic were the first individual winners on the opening night at the European Swimming Championships in Berlin.

Hosszu won the 400 metres individual medley, and for much of the race was well inside world-record pace, after Stjepanovic had claimed the first title in the pool in the 400m freestyle.

France set a new championship record in the men's 4x100m freestyle while Sweden were upgraded to gold in the women's equivalent after Denmark's disqualification while four championship records were set in the evening session.

The meet is being held at the Europa-park sports complex in the German capital. Not in one of the two permanent 50m pools but instead a temporary, 10-lane pool has been installed in the velodrome.

Hosszu had set a championship record in the heats and the self-styled 'Iron Lady' returned in the evening, victory never in doubt as she led from start to finish, winning in a championship record of 4:31.03, 2.10 ahead of Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia with Great Britain's Aimee Willmott in third.

The Hungarian turned 2.16secs inside world-record pace with 100m to go but she finished 2.60secs outside Ye Shiwen's mark. The swim underlined the other-worldly nature of the record set by the Chinese swimmer at the London Olympics in 2012 where her final 100m was faster than five of those in the men's equivalent.

"I just really wanted to swim my best time, that was my main goal going into the 400IM," smiled Hozzsu who will take on 10 events in total. It is hard to see how any significant inroads can be made into Ye's world record given the nature of the last 100m.

Hosszu though will continue to focus on her own race. "Anything can happen," she said. "I've been working on my 400IM. I swim a different race to Ye so hopefully I can work on my last 100 and get better at it."

Stjepanovic of Serbia won the first gold in the pool in a 400m freestyle final missing world record holder Paul Biedermann and Frenchman Yannick Agnel - a standout performer at last year's World Championships in Barcelona. Both failed to progress from this morning's heats.

Stjepanovic led from start to finish and by halfway had established close to a three-second lead. While the field came back on the final 50m, the 21-year-old was never threatened and won in 3:45.66, 1.25secs ahead of second-placed Andrea Mitchell D'Arrigo of Italy and Great Britain's Jay Lelliott.

Stjepanovic said: "I went out really fast but that's the way I usually race. At the final 50m I saw the Italian coming but I told myself that there were only a couple of metres left so I had to give the maximum."

In the other two finals on the opening night, France set a new championship mark of 3:11.64 in the men's 4x100m freestyle while Sweden won the women's equivalent in 3:35.82.

In the semi-finals, Commonwealth champion Adam Peaty set a new championship mark and lowered his own British 100m breaststroke record to 58.68. Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom lowered the championship mark she set in the morning session in the 50m butterfly to 24.87.

Great Britain's Chris Walker-Hebborn was fastest into the 100m backstroke final (53.62) and Andriy Govorov heads the 50m butterfly field, although his evening effort was 0.17secs outside the morning's championship record in 23.04. Duane Da Rocha Marce was quickest into the women's 200m backstroke final.

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