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Pellegrini, Veldhuis break world records at Euro swim championships

3/24/2008

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands -- Marleen Veldhuis and Federica Pellegrini set world records in the women's 50- and 400-meter freestyle Monday, bringing to six the number of world marks lowered at the European swimming championships.

Alain Bernard of France, who set three records on consecutive nights, won the men's 50 freestyle but wasn't fast enough to claim a fourth record on the meet's final day.

Veldhuis brought the sold-out crowd at the National Swim Center to its feet as she won the 50 freestyle in 24.09 seconds to lower the record of 24.13 set by Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

De Bruijn presented Veldhuis with a bunch of red tulips at the medal ceremony. The former Olympic champion bowed and pressed her palms together as if in prayer after giving Veldhuis the bouquet.

"I'm now the fastest woman in the water -- long and short course. It is fantastic to compete in front of a home crowd," Veldhuis said. "I thought I swam the perfect race yesterday, but I managed to go quicker."

Veldhuis led a Dutch 1-2 in the race, with Hinkelien Schreuder finishing exactly half a second back. Therese Alshammar of Sweden was third in 24.71.

Last week, Veldhuis anchored the Netherlands team that set a world record in the 400 freestyle relay. She also won the 100 freestyle title.

Pellegrini, disqualified for a false start in the 200 freestyle heats, bounced back to win the 400 freestyle title in 4:01.53, easily beating the old world mark of 4:02.13 set two years ago by Laure Manaudou of France.

"Of course I was a bit upset because of my disqualification in the 200 free," she said. "Today I desperately wanted to win gold, but didn't at all reckon with such a time."

Coralie Balmy of France was second in 4:04.15 and Camelia Potec of Romania finished third in 4:05.62.

Immediately after Veldhuis' victory, Bernard surged to victory in the men's 50 freestyle. The 24-year-old Frenchman finished in 21.66, outside the world mark of 21.50 he set Sunday in the semifinals.

On Friday and Saturday, Bernard twice lowered the 100 freestyle record as he won his first European title.

Duje Draganja of Croatia swam the 50 in 22.00 to finish second and Stefan Nystrand of Sweden was third in 22.16.

"Today, my aim was to win the title," Bernard said. "After these three crazy days, it was difficult to remain sane."

Laszlo Cseh of Hungary completed a golden double in the individual medleys, breaking his own European record to win the 400 in 4:09.59 after winning the 200 last week. Ioannis Drymonakos of Greece was second in 4:14.72 and Luca Marin took the bronze.

Britain set a European record and became only the fourth country to swim under 4 minutes in the women's 400 medley relay. Francesca Halsall overtook Daria Belyakina on the final freestyle leg to lead Britain to victory in 3:59.33.

Russia, which set off inside world record pace on the first 100 meters, was second in 4:00.47 and Veldhuis swam a strong final leg to give the Netherlands bronze.

Russia's men went one better than the women in the 400 medley relay, taking the title in a European record 3:34.25. Croatia was second and Sweden finished third in a time that qualified the team for the Olympics.

In other races, Janne Schaefer of Germany won the women's 50 breaststroke in 31.08, and Aurore Mongel of France took gold in the women's 200 butterfly.

Earlier, British teenager Thomas Daley won the men's 10-meter platform diving competition.

The 13-year-old Daley blushed, jumped up and down, and put his hands over his face in delight as Sascha Klein of Germany failed to overtake him in the standings with his sixth and final dive.

Daley had virtually assured himself of the victory with his fifth dive, a back three-and-a-half somersault with tuck that recorded four 10s and three 9.5s from the seven-judge panel. He ultimately finished with 491.95 points.

Klein, European champion in the 10-meter platform synchro competition, was second with 487.60 points, and Francesco dell'Uomo of Italy took third with 481.30.

"If somebody told me at Christmas that I would be a European champion at Easter, my answer would have been, 'Go away," Daley said. "If it seems as if I was without nerves, I can tell you I have nerves -- and they were quite tense."