Bratislava has proven to be a truly hidden gem on the calendar. The weather was glorious and the atmosphere golden.
ETU President, Renato Bertrandi was present and at the Opening Ceremony paid tribute to the City, the LOC and the Athletes who came together to create such a great weekend of racing. “I am delighted to see over 20 Federations represented here and would like to give especial thanks to all the Age Group athletes who have made their way to Bratislava. We have over 400 competitors, a record that clearly shows the discipline is a growing one and indeed an important one on our ETU Race Programme. We welcome also to these European Championships our visiting athlete from Chile.
I would like to give a big vote of thanks to the authorities, to the local police and to the volunteers who have worked so very hard to make this event happen. In Lisbon last year the suggestion was made to host these Championships and we simply could not say no – because you have the best swimmer on the ITU circuit here, Richard Varga. So, as a sign of respect – I would like to present these gifts, which will be the first two Gold Medals of the Championships. These will be presented to the Deputy Mayor of Bratislava and the President of the Federation, Jozef Jurášek.”
Little could he have known just how good it was going to be.
The Elite Women’s race saw the Elite Women line up with the U23 Women. It is always thrilling to see the determination of the U23 athletes to challenge the Elite and in this race, and indeed in the Men’s race that took place as the finale in the late afternoon, we saw U23 athletes performing strongly against their older and more experienced peers. The 1000m swim was over two laps. The crowds had grown during the day and the excellent weather meant that this event was watched by thousands of spectators. As a venue, the organisers could not ask for more. So close to the city yet so secure. It was a self-contained perfect location for the 2017 ETU Bratislava Aquathlon Championships.
Using her swim power, it was the young athlete from Hungary, Zsannett Bragmayer who led the athletes out of the water.
Close behind was last year’s bronze medal winner and former European Champion, GB’s Hannah Kitchen.
Just behind her and to make up the clear lead of three athletes, was Poland’s Alicja Ulatowska. She, like Bragmayer, was one of the U23 athletes. As Kitchen and Bragmayer sped through transition to start the 5k run, Ulatowska lost time and soon found she had to play catch up. The leading trio had a clear lead over the chasing pack, which was an interesting mixture of Elite and U23 athletes, closely packed.
Tucked in there was Romana Gajdošová SVK and with the crowds clearly showing their delight, she was cheered all the way through T1 and out onto the run. Close to her was Tereza Zimovjanová CZE and it looked like the medals would be shared between these athletes.
The out and back run course allowed the spectators to get close to the action and cheer their favourite athletes along the 5k course. The organisers had created a really impressive course and for spectators they had the chance to get a real feel for the race. For the athletes, being cheered along from spectators so close must have been really exciting.
It did not take long for Gajdošová to catch and pass Ulatowska. In front of her were Bragmayer and Kitchen. Zimovjanová soon saw Ulatowska and pushed hard to catch and pass her.
The dead turns were a test for the athletes. Running full pace and then having to stop and double back broke up the natural pace and Kitchen sat right on the shoulder of Bragmayer but before the halfway point she kicked and surged forwards and made her bid for the title. Bragmayer, now behind her, was having a fantastic run but was caught by Gajdošová with the finish line in sight. The Slovakian athlete posted an 18:26 for the 5k, easily the fastest run-split. Bragmayer must be delighted that her run pace has improved so well and for Kitchen, title number 2.
Gold to GB, silver to Slovakia and bronze to Hungary.
The U23 race was pretty much decided within the Elite race as Gajdošová and Bragmayer were clear winners. Bronze went to Zimovjanová, who after the race said, “Mistrovství Evropy v aquatlonu pro mě nakonec znamenalo bronzovou placku v kategorii do 23 let! Po všech zdravotních lapálijích to beru všemi deseticelkově jsem byla pátá, stejně jako minulý rok. Naší súsedia uspořádali perfektní závod se super pozitivní atmosférou, hrozně se mi v Bratislavě líbilo! Taky díky všem, co mi fandili, a zvláště mým sestřičkám, které mě i přišly ‘vyzvednout’ po závoděTak všetkým pekný pondělok! Terka
At the end I got a bronze medal at the European u23 Aquathlon Champs! Well after all my health problems I take that and I got fifth overall, the same as last year. I loved the race and its atmosphere, the Slovaks did a really GREAT job with the organisation! Also big thanks to everyone who cheered for me, especially to my sisters who came to ‘pick me up’ after the race. You all have an enjoyable Monday! Tereza”
Gold to Slovakia, silver to Hungary and bronze to the Czech Republic.
For the Elite and U23 Men’s race the crowds had increased as news got around that Slovakia’s most famous triathlete, Richard Varga was racing. Conditions were perfect and with the water still being a little too cold for a non-wetsuit swim, Varga’s immense swim power advantage would be reduced, with the athletes all racing in neoprene.
The front end of the race was certainly going to be tough, with the Junior World Champion, Poland’s powerful swimmer, Michał Oliwa now moving up a category and with Hungary’s Márk Dévay, who, though still in the U23 category, was part of the lead group in Quarteira this year.
There was no surprise that Varga led them around the first lap and on the beach turn was able to look out and see where the opposition were. What was a real surprise, was that on his shoulder was Dévay. These two created a massive lead of 20 seconds on the chasing Polish athlete who had made a clear mark on the race with his 11:36 swim and who had created a comfortable lead over Ukraine’s Sergiy Kurochkin who was leading the Ukrainian team.
As Varga and Dévay ran into transition the noise was deafening as the cheers for Varga increased but with many Hungarian athletes, supporters and families there, the sound levels were hitting red.
Out onto the run course and it was going to be a battle between Varga and Dévay. With so many years racing at the highest level, Varga’s run pace soon took him into the lead and Dévay was by now certain that gold would not be his today. Pretty much assured of U23 Gold, he nevertheless had to maintain pace to keep his hands on the Elite silver.
As with the women, the out and back course, with its dead turns gave the spectators the best possible chance of watching the race unfold. It also gave the athletes the best indication of how their race was going.
For Dévay he could see, to his and everyone’s amazement, that Dmytro Malyar UKR, with his recent victory in Dnipropetrovsk giving him extra confidence, had kicked hard on the run and with each lap was eating into the deficit that had been created by his swim, which was over a minute down on Varga’s time. His T1 was superfast and so was his running. Malyar was flying and with each pace he was catching the Hungarian but could his pace be enough for the title, previously held by team-mate and defending European Champion, Oleksiy Syutkin. Syutkin was having a bad race and was off the pace but Malyar was flying the Ukrainian colours high.
But it was Varga The Great who stormed home.
Behind him the battle was on between Malyar and the Hungarian. Malyar soon caught and passed Dévay to snatch silver, with a mightily impressive 15:38 run for the 5k.
The U23 Hungarian, just 2 seconds behind, was pushed into bronze medal position but had still won the U23 title convincingly.
The U23 title went to Dévay, with Oliwa posting a solid run to come in for silver. Bronze went to France with a stunning run of 16:20 from Alexis Kardes.
Slovakia took gold in the Elite Men and the U23 Women’s races.
Gold also went to the host nation in the Junior Women’s race with Kristína Jesenská who caught up, overtook and just managed to hold onto the lead, beating Alžběta Hrušková CZE. Bronze went to Ukraine’s Sofiya Pryyma whose run was enough to secure her place on the podium.
The Junior Men’s race favourite was Gergő Soós and whilst he was not first out of the water, he nevertheless pushed all the way to the line to take the title ahead of Botond Karai and Attila Arany to make it a clean sweep for Hungary.
Amongst the para athletes, gold went to Germany and to Daniel Müller in the PTHC category.
Gold also went, in the PTS5 category, to Spain’s Juan Jesús Aguiar.
Thanks to Vivafoto for being there to capture images of the race and to Móni Óvári not only for her photos of the Elite and U23 Races but also for supporting her husband, Haree Hajas, who provided the live race commentary there.
A great day of racing and in such an ideal location. If we can have the same sunshine next year, Bratislava, can we come back?
Related Event: 2017 Bratislava ETU Aquathlon European Championships
|Results: Elite Men|
|Results: Elite Women|
|Results: U23 Men|
|Results: U23 Women|
|Results: Junior Men|
|Results: Junior Women|