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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Popov, Alshammar Race to 4 Golds




HELSINKI, Finland -- Alexander Popov and Therese Alshammar illuminated the last day of the European swimming championships with classy sprint victories Sunday and boosted their medal hauls to four golds apiece.


They scooped their fourth golds by leading their teams to wins in the medley relays that concluded the championships in an action-packed final session in which eight titles were decided.


Popov, who had reclaimed his 50-meter freestyle crown earlier in the evening, anchored Russia to victory in the men's 4-by-100-meter medley relay.


Alshammar, who had earlier missed a world record in the women's 50 freestyle final by just 0.05 seconds, swam the opening backstroke leg in Sweden's victorious medley squad.


They can now look ahead to the Sydney Olympics and the matching sets of gold medals they won in the 50 and 100 freestyle and the 4-by-100 freestyle and 4-by-100 medley relays will give an extra boost to their confidence.


Former Russian Nina Zhivanevskaya completed a golden backstroke treble for her new country Spain, winning Sunday's 50 meters after earlier victories in the 100 and 200.


There were also three golds for Ukraine's Yana Klochkova, who won Sunday's women's 400 freestyle, having earlier retained her 400 individual medley and a share of her 200 medley title after finishing a rare equal first with Romania's Beatrice Caslaru.


Popov, who lost both his 50 and 100 freestyle titles to Pieter van den Hoogenband at the 1999 championships in Istanbul, reclaimed both from the Dutchman in Helsinki.


The Australian-based Russian took charge early in Sunday's one-length sprint down the 50-meter Makelanrinne indoor pool and had the edge throughout, clocking a championship record 21.95 seconds.


It was outside the 21.64 world mark he set in Moscow last month, but left him well clear of his rivals. "My time could have been better. It was an easy swim though," said Popov.


Van den Hoogenband, who has scarcely rested from heavy Olympic training, had to settle for the silver behind Popov in 22.35 f the same order as in Wednesday's 100 freestyle.


Italy's Lorenzo Vismara, second between Van den Hoogenband and Popov in Istanbul, took the bronze in 22.38.


"Alexander was in better shape than myself today," Van den Hoogenband said. "I was hoping to do it under 22 seconds. Hopefully, in Sydney I'll be able to do that. I'll go for a medal there. Any color will do."


Popov posted the fastest split of 48.51 on the concluding freestyle leg of the medley relay to lead his team home in three minutes 39.29 seconds ahead of Sweden (3:40.43) and Ukraine (3:40.91).


"I suppose I did what I was expected to do. The boys swam well. We are satisfied with our time," he said.


In the women's relay, Alshammar touched second behind Spain's triple Helsinki champion Zhivanevskaya on the backstroke, but teammate Emma Igelstrom put the Swedes in front on the breaststroke, and they never looked back.


Johanna Sjoberg and Louise Johncke completed the job on the butterfly and freestyle legs and Sweden won by a huge margin in 4:06.00 from Belgium (4:09.52) and Romania (4:10.05).