Swimming / European Championships / Israel's Young Guns Lead in Heats

European Swimming Championships open in Debrecen, Hungary.

Israel's next generation of swimmers stood out Monday on the opening day of the European Swimming Championships in Debrecen, Hungary.

Yakov Toumarkin and Imri Ganiel set Israeli records as they finished first in their heats and reached the finals in the men's 100-meter backstroke and the men's 100-meter breaststroke, respectively. Amit Ivri also advanced to the finals of her warm-up event, the 50-meter butterfly.

Guy Barnea, however, will have to watch the Olympics from home after losing out in the men's 100-meter backstroke semifinals. Barnea missed the Olympic criterion in the World Swimming Championships when he lost a swim-off and finished in 17th place, one short of the cut-off for the finals. This week he did well in the heats, snatching the second-best time with 54.44 seconds, 0.04 seconds above the criterion. However, he had nothing left to give in the semifinal and finished 10th with a time of 54.95 seconds, which is insufficient for London.

Toumarkin, who swam his heat in 54.22 seconds, matching Barnea's 2009 Israeli record, already secured his Olympic spot at the World Championships.

In the 100-meter backstroke, Yonatan Kopelev finished fourth in the heats with a time of 54.61 seconds behind Toumarkin and Barnea, but missed out on the semifinals on a technicality - only two swimmers from each country may advance. Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or finished 12th in the same heat, and did not advance for the same reason.

Ganiel, 20, was the surprise of the day. He had the best time in the 100-meter breaststroke heats at 1:00.26 minutes, improving the Israeli mark set by Dani Malnik three years ago by 2.30 seconds. In the semifinal, the youngster finished fourth with a time of 1:01.01 minutes, good enough to make today's final. Ganiel will have to finish the course in 1:00.79 minutes tomorrow to qualify for the Olympics. If he doesn't make it, he could slip through the back door via the exceptions committee of the Israel Olympic Committee and the Elite Sports Unit as a young, promising athlete.

Other Israeli participants yesterday included Gal Nevo, who swam the men's 100-meter breaststroke in 1:01.95 minutes for 22nd place; and Yaron Shagalov, who finished 44th in the same event with a time of 1:03.45 minutes.

Ivri, who is trying to achieve the Olympic criterion in the women's 100-meter breaststroke, warmed up with an eighth-place finish in the 50-meter version with a time of 27.48 seconds.

Alon Mandel and Tom Kremer finished 15th and 16th, respectively, in the semifinal of the men's 50-meter butterfly. Both are preparing for the upcoming longer version.

Anna Volchkov finished 22nd in the women's 200-meter backstroke, swimming the course in 2:18.18 minutes.