Popov, Jedrzejczak show fine form

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> World record holders Otylia Jedrzejczak and Alexander Popov proved to be in winning form at the European swimming championships.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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World record holders Otylia Jedrzejczak and Alexander Popov proved to be in winning form at the European swimming championships, while the Ukraine won the most gold medals. On the last day of the tournament, Popov swam in lane eight in the 50 freestyle after barely qualifying but still clocked 22.32 seconds to win. Stefan Nystrand of Sweden took silver and Lorenzo Vismara of Italy got bronze. Still, Popov wasn't near his world record of 21.64, set in 2000. "If I were happy with my swimming I'd say it was time to give up," said Popov, who hinted that the Olympics in Athens might be his last. "I started my career in Athens in 1991 and it will be a complete circle to finish it there," the 32-year-old said. Jedrzejczak won the women's 200 butterfly for the third time in a row in 2:06.47, slightly above her world mark of 2:05.78 set two years ago. "It's my third gold so I am very happy and hope it is a good omen for Athens," the Polish swimmer said. Paola Cavallino of Italy won the silver medal while bronze went to Mette Jacobsen of Denmark. Olympic preparations The championships were seen by some athletes as a preparation for the Olympics, but the closeness of the events saw many countries, notably Germany and Britain, coming with reduced teams. Russia topped the medals standing with 30. Of its 10 golds, four were in swimming. Ukraine - with champions including as Oleg Lisogor, Andriy Serdinov Yana Klochkova and Olga Bondarenko - won 20 medals but nine of its 11 golds were in swimming. Italy, with Filippo Magnini, Paolo Bossini and Emiliano Brembilla in winning form, proved strong with 25 medals. Six of its eight golds were in swimming. Tough competition Yesterday also saw the Ilona Hlavackova of the Czech Republic win the 50 backstroke in 29.00. Nina Zhivanevskaya of Spain, champion in 2000 and 2002, claimed second and Alessandra Cappa of Italy was third. "I expected the competition to be very tough here, but I managed to win," Hlavackova said. "I can't tell you how important the result is. I hope to be OK for Athens, I've been sick and haven't been able to compete in races I would have liked to be in." Therese Alshammar of Sweden won the women's 50 freestyle for the third consecutive championship in 25.12. "I rested a couple of days before this event and though I wasn't fully race-fit I came in first," she said. "I'm very pleased. My training will carry on as planned with this win being a nice step along the way." Sviatlana Khakhlova of Belarus earned the silver and Sandra Voelker of Germany won bronze. Laure Manaudou of France beat two-time champion Yana Klochkova of Ukraine to take the women's 400 freestyle in 4:07.90. Camelia Potec of Romania won silver and Klochkova took bronze. "I prefer 400 metre freestyle to doing the backstroke and will concentrate on this for the Olympics. I have high hopes for Athens," the French swimmer said. "This is my best time so I couldn't be happier." Medals galore Earlier, the 17-year-old Manaudou won the 100 backstroke. France added the women's 400 medley relay gold medal in 4:05.96. Ukraine was second and the Netherlands finished third. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary swam to gold in the 400 medley in 4:12.86 to add to his 100 backstroke. Silver went to Luca Marin of Italy and compatriot Alessio Boggiatto was third. Ukraine won the men's 400 medley relay in 3:37.14. France managed second place, followed by Hungary. Britta Kamrau of Germany added the 25-kilometre women's open water race to add to her victories in the 5- and 10-kilometre events at the tournament. Kamrau clocked 4:39:11. Natalia Pankina of Russia was second, 12.5 seconds behind, and Ivanka Moralieva of Bulgaria gained the bronze in 4:41:21.2. (AP)