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Russian starlets lay down marker for Rio

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The best Swimming images of Baku 2015

Swimming | Best of Baku 2015
Javier Romero Barrios of Spain (front) starts alongside fellow competitors during the Men's 100m Backstroke. Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 23: Athletes compete in the Women's 400m Individual Medley heats during day eleven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 23, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 25: Swimmers compete in the Women's 4x100m Medley Relay heats during day thirteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 25, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: Ivan Andrianov of Azerbaijan competes in the Men's 4x100m Medley Relay heats during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 25: Athletes warm up prior to the start of the morning swimming session on day thirteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 25, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: Participants compete in an underwater swimming exhibition during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Benjamin Doyle of Ireland competes in the Men's 100m Butterfly heats during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at Baku Aquatics Centre on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: Participants prepare to compete in the Men's 50m Underwater Swimming (without bottles) during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: A general view during the Women's 50m Freestyle heats on day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at Baku Aquatics Centre on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 23: Athletes compete in the Men's 400m Freestyle heats during day eleven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 23, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Daniil Pakhomov of Russia competes in the Men's 100m Butterfly heats during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at Baku Aquatics Centre on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 25: Julia Weronika Adamczyk of Poland waves after her Women's 1500m Freestyle heat during day thirteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 25, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: Participants compete in an underwater swimming exhibition during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: A competitor warms up prior to swimming finals during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 25: Athletes warm up prior to the start of the morning swimming session on day thirteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 25, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: (L-R) Gold medalists Vladislav Kozlov, Daniil Pakhomov, Anton Chupkov and Filipp Shopin of Russia pose with the medals won in the Men's 4 x 100m Medley Relay final during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 25: (L-R) Gold medalists Maria Astashkina, Arina Openysheva, Polina Egorova and Mariia Kameneva of Russia pose during the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x100m Medley Relay final during day thirteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 25, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 25: (L-R) Silver medalists Iris Tjoink, Tes Schouten, Josien Wijkhuijs and Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands pose during the medal ceremony for the Women's 4x100m Medley Relay final during day thirteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 25, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: (L-R) Silver medalist Giulia Verona of Italy, gold medalist Maria Astashkina of Russia and bronze medalist Daria Chikunova of Russia stand on the podium during the medal ceremony for Women's 100m Breaststroke during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 23: (L-R) Silver medalist Pawel Sendyk of Poland, gold medalist Andril Khloptsov of Ukraine and bronze medalist Daniil Pakhomov of Russia pose with the medals won during the Men's 50m Butterfly final on day eleven of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 23, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 27: Participants compete in an underwater swimming exhibition during day fifteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the Baku Aquatics Centre on June 27, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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A review of Swimming at the Baku 2015 European Games

"I have no rivals. My only enemy was time."

So said Maria Astashkina, who won four gold medals, but the words could have been uttered by many of her all-conquering Russian Swimming team-mates during the five days of competition at the Baku Aquatics Centre.

In the end, time did not stand a chance. Neither did most of Russia's rivals, with only Great Britain putting up any kind of a challenge.

Of the 42 events, 23 gold medals finished round Russian necks. Britain were a distant second with seven, while Germany had three.

For swimmers like Astashkina and Arina Openysheva, who won seven golds, the senior world championships in Kazan, Russia, in July beckons and afterwards, perhaps, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The same goes for team-mates Daniil Pakhomov and Anton Chupkov, in butterfly and breaststroke, who finished with four gold medals each. Pakhomov also twice broke the junior world record at 100m butterfly.

Six junior world records tumbled in total – all but one to Russia. The odd man out was Britain's Luke Greenbank in the 200m backstroke.

The 17-year-old was eclipsed by team-mate Duncan Scott, who finished with three gold medals and three silver and looked particularly impressive on his way to winning the 200m freestyle.

Pre-Games, the talk was all about Openysheva's bid for eight gold medals, earning her the label of 'Mini Phelps', in honour of the US swimmer who won eight at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

She finished with seven, but was still the stand-out performer. "It is nice when you are winning," said Openysheva. "Even when your physical strength is going, your mental strength rises up."

The elusive eighth was denied her by Dutch youngster Marrit Steenbergen, whose victory in the 100m freestyle has catapaulted her into third in the Netherlands rankings and the growing possibility she could make Rio 2016 in the relay.

In the avalanche of golds which went Russia's way, Astashkina confirmed her status as queen of the breaststroke, winning at 50m, 100m and 200m, plus in the 4x100m medley relay.

The other multiple gold medallists were Mariia Kameneva and Polina Egorova, who each take six gold medals home to Russia.

Pakhomov shrugged his shoulders and expressed no surprise when he set a junior world record in the heats of the 100m butterfly, only to lower the standard again a few hours later in the semi-final. On the final night he added the 100m title to his 200m.

Israel's 50m freestyle champion Ziv Kalontarov earned the spectators a rare medal ceremony that did not echo to the strains of the Russian national anthem on the closing night, when eight of the 11 finals went to Russia.

Asked why the team was so good, Pakhomov had a simple answer.

"Because we are Russian."


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    Russian starlets lay down marker for Rio

    A review of Swimming at the Baku 2015 European Games
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    Steenbergen dents Openysheva's bid for dominance

    Dutch speedster takes blue riband sprint title, but Russian still wins two golds
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    Russia face tough examination in the pool

    Strong teams mean formidable line-ups will take nothing for granted
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