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Belmonte Is Back: Brace Of Barcelona Berths

Mar 21, 2013  - Craig Lord

Pontevedra, Galicia, where the old Roman bridge gives the town its name: much water under the bridge since Mireia Belmonte took two silver medals at London 2012 but the Sabadell ace shrugged off a winter of discontent with victories in both her Olympic podium events within an hour of each other at the Spanish Spring Open.

The meet serves as a home world-championships qualifier for the Spanish heading for Barcelona this summer. Belmonte was one of four swimmers, with Sabadell teammates Ignacio and Marc Sanchez and Galicia's Beatrix Gomez, to book their tickets.

Opening her campaign in style, Belmonte raced alongside Hungarian Zsuzsanna Jakabos before making her move out of the last turn of the 200m butterfly on the way to a 2:06.70 victory ahead of the visitor, on 2:07.38. The winning performance confirms that Belmonte has coped well with what she faced post-London 2012 and is in good shape for a home world-titles sequel to her Olympic success story.

The Spanish champion - who on the eve of racing in the historic town in north west Iberia told the media "I'm the same Mireia I've always been" - was due to race in her other Olympic podium event, the 800m freestyle, less than an hour after the butterfly final she paced to perfection in terms of ensuring her first home win in a world-class time since celebrating double silver in London.

Out in 1:01.67, 0.03sec ahead of Jakabos, at the half-way turn, there was still nothing in it as the Hungarian clocked 1:32.20, 0.09sec ahead of her Spanish opponent, at the last turn. Belmonte, on 2:05.25 for silver behind Chinese world champion Jiao Liuyang at London 2012, refused to be beaten at home on the way to the 4th best effort of her career, only her Olympic and Olympic qualifying efforts of last year faster than she swam today. For Jakabos, whose best in a 2:06.35 from 2011, 2:07.38 marked the 6th best of her career.

The bronze went to her Sabadell teammate, on 2:09.20. A good start for them and coach Fred Vergnoux: both Spanish medallist made the cut for a home World Championships in Barcelona this summer. Read more on what Vergnoux had to say on Belmonte, his other charges and the challenge facing Spain.

There was more for Sabadell to celebrate: Marc Sanchez clocked 15:12.53 to win the 1500m freestyle by a wide margin, his time booking him a berth on Spain's team for the home World Championships in Barcelona. His previous best from a year ago had been a 15:33.06. Fine progress for a man who left his teenage years behind last year.

Belmonte took to her blocks for the second time in the evening immediately after watching Sanchez qualify and rode the wave of her club's celebrations with an 8:24.89 victory ahead of Galicia's Beatriz Gomez, on 8:26.54 for a berth on Spain's home world-titles team. Third was Spanish championship record holder (8:24.63 from 2009) Erika Villaecija, of Sant Andreu, on 8:35.35, just ahead of an 8:36.63 for Sabadell's Claudia Dasca.

In other action so far in Pontevedra, the men's 200m butterfly went to Carlos Peralta, of Madrid's Real Canoe, in 1:59.30 ahead of a 2:00.07 for Portugal's Nuno Goncalo. 

Federico Turrini, of Italian club Livorno, took the 200m backstroke in 2:01.18 ahead of a 2:02.25 effort from Alejandro Garcia, of Zamora, the bronze going to Pedro Terres in 2:03.86, just 0.02sec shy of his European juniors target time.

Duane Da Rocha, Real Canoe, took the equivalent women's final in 2:12.08 ahead of Natalia Torne and Hamile Zulal Zeren (TUR), inn 2:15.44 and 2:16.24 respectively. Da Rocha's target for Barcelona 2013 was 2:11.09. 

Luca Dotto (ESP) clocked 22.35 in the semi-of the 50m free at the start of the session and took the final in 22.31 ahead of Aitor Martinez, 22.54, the bronze going to Poland's Konrad Cerniak in 22.61. Italian Erika Ferraioli, of Livorno, pipped Mercedes Peris, Santa Olaya, 25.68 to 25.91, to take the women's free dash.

In other semis, Brazil's Henrique Barbosa clocked 1:03.22 as fastest in the 100m breaststroke. Gionzalo Carazo, on 1:03.66 for Gredos, swam inside the cut for the European Junior Championships.

In lane 4 for the women's final will be Marina Garcia, on 1:08.44 in the semi after 1:08.74 in heats. Both finals will be held tomorrow evening on day two of the four-day meet.