The European Swimming Championships get underway in Rome’s Foro Italico on Thursday.
Here AFP Sport looks at six title contenders to watch during the competition from August 11-17.
David Popovici (ROM)
Romanian Popovici returns to the Foro Italico where he first made a splash last year by sweeping the 50-100-200m freestyle titles at the junior Europeans.
The 17-year-old broke through at senior level with two gold medals at the World Championships in Budapest in June in the 100m and 200m freestyle, the first man to achieve that double since 1973.
In Rome he will go up against Olympic champion Tom Dean of England, the recent world bronze medallist, who won seven medals at the Commonwealth Games this month, but took silver behind Scotland’s Duncan Scott in the 200m in Birmingham.
Kristof Milak (HUN)
Hungary’s Kristof Milak has an unbeaten run in the 200m butterfly since the 2018 European championships in Glasgow. Last year the Tokyo Olympics 200m butterfly gold medallist won both the 100m and 200m at Europeans. He also won both events at the worlds this June and bettered his own world record in the 200m.
Thomas Ceccon (ITA)
Italy’s Thomas Ceccon will be looking to replicate his stunning worlds form when the 21-year-old set a new world record on his way to gold in the 100m backstroke in Budapest. It was the first individual long-course gold medal for the swimmer who won two Olympic relay medals with Italy.
Sarah Sjostrom (SWE)
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom is back at the Foro Italico where she burst into the limelight in 2009, winning her first world title aged 15 in the 100m butterfly.
Since then the 28-year-old has won an Olympic gold, ten world and 14 European long-course titles.
After missing the 2021 Europeans with an elbow injury, Sjostrom claimed silver in the 50m free at the Olympics in Tokyo.
At worlds this year, Sjostrom won the 50m free and 50m fly, silver in the 100m free, to become the female swimmer with the most individual world medals – 19 podium places (10 gold), one short of Michael Phelps’ all time record (20).
Katinka Hosszu (HUN)
Katinka Hosszu also won her first major gold in Rome in 2009 in the 400m individual medley. The 33-year-old will renew her rivalry with Sjostrom for the top spot in the all-time medals at European championships.
Hosszu leads Sjostrom 24-23, with 15 golds, 6 silvers and 3 bronzes. German legend Franziska van Almsick has won the most European titles so far (18). Sjostrom has a record 14 golds, all from individual events, six silvers and three bronze.
Benedetta Pilato (ITA)
Italian teenager Benedetta Pilato will also be looking to reproduce her form from the worlds at home after winning a surprise 100m breaststroke gold in Budapest.
The 17-year-old will face a tough duel with returning Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte who won 100m breaststroke gold at the 2012 London Olympics aged 15, with two European gold medals before retiring briefly after a doping suspension and an injury.
Meilutyte, 25, came back and won the 50m breaststroke gold ahead of Pilato at the worlds in June, but the Italian is the world record holder over the distance.