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Nimrod Palma pulled off the surprise of the day for Israel's swimmers at the European Championship in Madrid yesterday, reaching the semifinals of the 200 meters butterfly with a prsonal best of 2:01.95 minutes.

Palma's time was enough to take the 14th spot in the semifinals, where he finished last in a time of 2:02.87.

In today's races, Shai Livnat and Ania Gostamelski will have their last chance to make the Athens Olympics. Livnat races in the 200 meters individual medley and will need to swim the distance in a time of 1:50.48 - around a second slower than his Israeli record of 1:49.62.

Gostamelski, swimming in the 100 meters backstroke, has her work cut out as she will need to improve on her Israeli record of 1:03:31 to swim within the Olympic qualifying criterion of 1:02.69.

Vered Borochovski, who finished fifth in the 50 meters butterfly final, narrowly missing out on a bronze medal, races in the 100 meters butterfly, which is her strongest event.

The highlight of yesterday's action was Svitlana Bondarenko's 100 meter breaststroke gold. In past European championships, the 32-year-old Ukrainian had gleaned six silvers and a bronze in the 100 breaststroke, plus two further silvers in the 50 and 200 breaststroke.

Sweden's Emma Igelstrom, the 2002 winner, did not defend her title.