Duje Draganja of Croatia is seen from underwater as he swims in the heats of the men's 50 m freestyle event at the European Aquatic Championships in Budapest August 5, 2006. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (HUNGARY)
Championships Washed Out
Aug 1, 2006 Craig Lord
A massive electrical storm washed the European Championships out of the water on Margaret Island in Budapest just as Hungary's Lazslo Cseh and Britain's Gregor Tait concluded their tight semi-final over 200 metres medley.
Organisers had hoped to continue the meet when, or rather if, the storm passed over. It didn't. In fact, it got progessively worse. As I write, there is no sign of any let up, as thunder booms overhead and sheet lightening continues to scorch a leaden sky - and Omega says that it cannot guarantee a scoreboard and full timing system by the morning.
The deluge that came with the storm was so heavy that it was hard to tell the swimmers from those who looked like they'd fallen in the pool. Strong winds blew papers high into the air and the trees surrounding the pool shed branches and leaves. The morning clean up may well be a pretty big task.
And not only for organisers. Dozens of laptops blew a gasket as water seeped into the mechanics, phone lines failed and the championship wireless connection that has cost journalists a wapping 140 euros to buy (when T-Mobile rates are usually about 40 euros for the time frame of the event here) was too weak to use.
Omega had its own problems. The timing company put out a statement saying that it could not guarantee that results would be available in printed form for tomorrow's morning session. Monitors in the press stands are also likely to be off, while, worst of all, racing may take place without a scoreboard.
Omega staff will work through the night trying to solve the problems caused by the storm. However, in statement, it said: "e;...there is no guarantee that the system will be OK for tomorrow. Further details will be available Wednesday morning."e;
Before the heavens opened, Arkady Vyatchanin, of Russia, took the 100m backstroke crown in 53.50, a time good enough to have won any Olympic title in history, with Austria's Markus Rogan second on 54.07 and Grigoriadis Aristeidis third on 54.34 and British pair Liam Tancock and Matt Clay just missing out on 54.51 and 54.52.
While Clay's was a best time, Tancock's effort was less than a tenth outside his national record - not bad for someone who broke their wrist in April after becoming Commonwealth champion in March. Particularly so when you consider that their times would have won the crown at any time in the past barring Stev Theloke's 54.42sec win in Berlin 2002. How Europe moves on....
The 100m breaststroke medals were split by 0.03sec: the title went to Russia's Roman Sludnov in 1:00.61, with Alexander-Oen Dale taking Norway's first silver medal ever, on 1:00.63, and defending champion Oleg Lisogor, of Ukraine, third on 1:00.64. Commonwealth champion Chris Cook, who has been battling to recover from a groin strain sustained six weeks ago, finished fourth on 1:00.99.
Sergiy Breus, the European record holder from Ukraine, retained the 50m butterfly titles in a championship record of 23.41, just 0.03sec outside his best. Silver went to Croatia's Duje Draganja, on 23.62, with Jakob Andkjaer taking Denmark's first medal in the event, with 23.77 for third.
Sweden's Therese Alshammar took the 50m butterfly crown in 26.06 ahead of teammate Anna-Karin Kammerling, on 26.23, with Chantal Groot, of the Netherlands, third on 26.49.
Britta Steffen, of Germany, set a championship record of 54.21 to progress to the final of the 100m freestyle the clear favourite to take the crown. The seven behind here were all within half a second of each other and included 16-year-old Brit Francesca Halsall, on 54.99.
The semi-final of the 200m freestyle will be held at the end of tomorrow's heats, while the final of the women's 200m backstroke will be staged 15 minutes before the start of finals.
Perhaps the god of swimming schedules had a hand in the storm: the backstroke girls now face a day on which they will race heats of the 100m backstroke, the final of the 200m backstroke and the semis of the 100m backstroke.
And with that, crack winds and blow (and indeed they are doing, with a vengeance) - and we'll be back when (or if) the show goes on, though at this rate, none of us will make it home this night, trapped as we are, damp and chilly, in the press tent. O joy!