Mireia Belmonte concluded a strong Spanish Open with a 4:05.63 championship record just 0.18sec shy of her national mark in a battle with world s/c champion Melanie Costa, who took silver in Pontevedra with a 4:06.02 lifetime best. Belmonte followed up with her only silver lining of the week when Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) clocked a lifetime best of 2:10.35 a hand ahead of the Spanish champion in the 200m medley.
The 400m free final granted Belmonte her fifth gold of the meet, with the 200m medley ahead of her, while Costa, 200m winner at the championships, left the 400m final to prepare for the 100m free final towards the end of the last session of the Open.
Both Belmonte, Sabadell, and Costa, Salle-P, cracked the target time for a home World Championships in Barcelona this summer. The battle was stroke for stroke: Costa had the edge at 100m, 59.84 to 59.88; Belmonte took charge by a whisker at 200m, 2:02.25 to 2:02.46; the gap at 300m was 3:04.51 to 3:04.80 with 100m to go, with 0.36sec between the rivals with 50m to go. Belmonte brought the race home in 30.20, Costa on 30.23.
With that victory, Belmonte, coached by Fred Vergnoux, sneaked ahead of New Zealand's Lauren Boyle, on 4:05.67 at Kiwi nationals in Auckland this week, to take the helm of the first-quarter world rankings, while Costa, coached by José Antonio del Castillo this season, is now third on the list.
Spanish record holder on 4:05.45 from the European Championships a year ago, Belmonte has now cracked 4:06 four times, while Costa's best was a 4:06.75 from the heats at the Olympic Games. Belmonte had held the championship record at 4:05.77 since the meet at Malaga a year ago. The bronze in Pontevedra today went to Martina De Memme, Livorno, Italy, in 4:14.49.
Belmonte suffered her only defeat of the week in the 200m medley, Hungarian visitor Zsuzsanna Jakabos holding on to take the final 2:10.35 to 2:10.67 after the Spanish champion put in a 30.08 to 30.77 last lap in the hunt for home. Beatrix Gomez took bronze in 2:12.09, a lifetime best, to claim the second berth for Spain in the event at a home world titles this summer.
Belmonte's Spanish record has stood at 2:10.26 since 2011, while her effort today marked the third time in her career that she had cracked 2:11. Jakabos celebrated her first sub-2:11 swim, her previous best a 2:11.98 from a year ago.
The top two efforts placed the Hungarian and Spanish charges at 2nd and 4th respectively on the first-quarter world rankings, Ye Shiwen (CHN), the Olympic champion who captured headlines around the world when she raced as fast as Ryan Lochte et al over the last 100m of the 400IM, topping the list as the sole sub-2:10 swimmer so far this season, on 2:09.67.
Costa, meanwhile, ended her campaign with gold in the 100m crown in 55.22, just shy of the 55.15 Spanish record she established yesterday in the semi-final. Italian Erika Ferraioli took silver in 55.69, with Patricia Ortega on 56.00 for bronze.
There was no senior qualifier for worlds in the men's 400m free but Arnau Rovira, a 17-year-old racing for Manresa, booked a ticket to the European Junior Championships with a 3:54.92 victory ahead of a 3:55.20 effort for 800 and 1500m champion Marc Sanchez, already on the Barcelona 2013 squad. Rovira raced inside his previous best of 3:57.51 in heats before making another step forward in the final. The bronze went to Sabadell's Miguel Duran, whose 3:55.96 also made the cut for European juniors.
Marina Garcia, Mediterraneo, booked a berth in the 200m breaststroke at Barcelona worlds this summer with a 2:25.77 victory well ahead of Jessica Vall, 2:32.45, and Turkey's Buse Gunaydin, 2:32.48. Victory markers Garcia's sixth time inside 2:26, while her Spanish record stands at 2:24.83, from June last year. In the men's equivalent, Mediterraneo celebrated another gold, Sergio García on 2:16.26 ahead of Mario Cortés, 2:16.77, and Fernando Morillas, 2:17.47.
Duane Da Rocha, Real Canoe, scraped inside the Barcelona 2013 cut by 0.8sec in the 100m backstroke with a 1:01.31 victory 0.43sec shy of her championship record from a year ago. In second on 1:02.05, Mercedes Peris was locked out of the immediate cut for the worlds, while the bronze went to France's Alexianne Castel in 1:03.23.
Aschwin Wildeboer, Sabadell, fell just shy of the mark (54.43) with a 54.57 victory in the 100m backstroke, Miguel Rando on 54.72 for silver J.F Segura third in 55.84. Wildeboer and Rando are already on the world-titles team.
The men's 100m free saw Konrad Cerniak (POL) and Luca Dotto (ITA) dead-heat on 49.55 (Dotto having clocked 49.17 in semis), the bronze going to Ben Hockin (PAR) in 49.64.
The last two finals of the Open, the 50m 'fly dashes, had Judit Ignacio, Sabadell, at the helm of the women on 27.46, shy of Barcelona 2013 cut, and Rafa Munoz finally celebrating his addition to the Spain national team for the major international of the summer. The Navial sprinter, who holds the world record holder at 22.43 from a time of shiny suits in 2009, clocked 23.37 (close to a 23.16 textile best) for victory and a berth in the battle of Barcelona 2013.
The Spain team for home world titles based on qualification targets met at the Open - inside FINA A standard: