A day after taking a brace in swift times at the Spanish Open in Pontevedra, double Olympic silver medallist Mireia Belmonte claimed the 400m medley crown in 4:35.27 to book third swim at a home World Championships in Barcelona this summer.
The time takes Belmonte to the top of the first-quarter world rankings a fingernail inside the 4:35.57 of Hannah Miley at the British Gas International in Leeds earlier this month.
Last year at the London 2012 Games, Belmonte's first final saw her clock 4:35.62 in the 400m medley. Today she went faster, her victory marking the 5th best effort of her career, her Spanish record a 4:33.91 from national Olympic trials a year ago.
On 1:02.30 on 'fly, 2:12.92 after backstroke and 3:32.17 after breaststroke, Belmonte, coached by Fred Vergnoux, led from go to gold. There was progress behind her, however: Beatrix Gomez, of Galicia, clocked 4:39.86 for silver 5sec inside her previous best and another berth at Barcelona 2013 FINA world titles. The winner's Sabadell teammate Claudia Dasca took broke in 4:41.86.
World s/c 400m free champion Melanie Costa, of Salle-P, clocked 1:58.15 for joint victory with Hungarian visitor Zsuzsanna Jakabos and a world-titles berth in the 200m freestyle. Just a stroke shy of the 1:57.58 national record of Belmonte and her own 1:57.66 personal best leading off the Spanish 4x200m relay at London 2012, Costa was pressed all the way by Jakabos and Patricia Ortega, third in 1:58.45 and celebrating a ticket to Barcelona. The three swam within about .5sec of each other throughout the race. Spain needs a fourth sub-minute 200m swimmers to bolster a promising relay.
Visitors kept the best of Spain at bay in the men's long medley, Federico Turrini, of Livorno in Italy, on 4:19.94 to fend off a late challenge from Alexis Santos, of Portugal, on 4:20.91. The bronze went to 1500m free winner and world-titles qualifier of yesterday Marc Sanchez, of Sabadell, in 4:21.31, another big personal best for the 20-year-old who surpassed his previous high by 5.43sec. Another similar gain and he will challenge the 4:16.98 national record that has stood to Javier Nunez since 2008.
In other action, teenager Marina Garcia of Mediterraneo - after 1:08.44 in the semis yesterday - took the 100m breaststroke crown in 1:08.70. That left her 0.07sec shy of her target time, which needed to be swum in the final. There is leeway in the selection policy yet. Garcia had company in the shape of Turkey's Buse Gunaydin, on 1:09.57, the bronze going to Jessica call of Sanandreu, on 1:10.74. The men's equivalent final went to Hector Monteagudo, Ciudad Real, in 1:03.23, 0.15sec ahead of Fernando Morillas.
Natchu's Victor Martin kept Paraguay's Ben Hockin at bay in the 200m free final, 1:48.71 to 1:49.05, with Gerard Rodriguez third in 1:51.25 for bronze.
The backstroke dash finals brought day 2 action to a close and were both won in championship records. Mercedes Peris, Sant Olaya, clocked 28.08 ahead of Duane Da Rocha, on 28.47, while Aschwin Wildeboer, Sabadell, took the men's crown in 24.76, not far from his 2009 national mark of 24.48 and inside the 24.84 championship mark he established the same year. Silver went to Miguel Rando in 25.19. The top two finishers in both finals made the cut for Barcelona world titles.
In semis, Sabadell's Judit Ignacio challenged her own Spanish record with a 59.45sec ticket to lane 4 in the final of the 100m butterfly tomorrow. Her national standard has stood at 59.21 since 2011.
Rafa Munoz, of Navial, clocked 53.35 at the helm of the men's 100m 'fly semis, his textile best a 52.48 from last year as he aims to the final a second ahead of chasing pack in pursuit of a ticket to a home world champs.