Emotions flowed at the Natatorium on Tuesday where gut-wrenching personal loss and intense sporting rivalry made for a compelling evening.
Argentine Delfina Narella Pignatiello did not disappoint the 1900 cheering spectators who saw their countrywoman capture a silver medal. Then, during the victory ceremony, she broke down in tears and raised her palm to the heavens inscribed with the word “Abuela” and a heart. “My grandmother passed away last week, before I started swimming at this championships, so this is for her,” said the 18-year-old. “I was feeling kind of not good. There is a lot of crowd here, a lot of pressure.”
Kesely, who had recently finished second to Pignatiello at the world juniors, took gold in the women’s 800m freestyle in eight minutes 27.60 seconds.
In another pool rivalry, Andrei Minakov (RUS) flipped the script to edge Kristof Milak (HUN) by just .38 in a head-to-head battle for the men’s 100m butterfly. It marked Minakov’s second gold medal of the YOG. “Actually, my main idea was not to swim fast, just to beat Milak,” said Minakov, who posted a personal best of 51.12. “Because we have a battle - each competition we are battling each other and finally, this meet I beat him. I’m surprised - even my coaches are surprised. This is good luck.”
Milak was considered the favourite after having won silver at the recent world championships. Tuesday’s silver was his third medal of the YOG, after winning gold in the 400m and 200m freestyle events.
But luck probably has nothing to do with Minakov’s success. Credit, however, might be owed to his mother, who steered the 16-year-old toward swimming as a child. “My first sport was skiing,” he said. “But skiing you can do only in the winter, so summer, autumn and spring you are doing nothing. And my mom said, ‘He has to do more sports, to have an opportunity to do other sports.’
“There was a swimming selection, so I go and tried. And it worked.”
Minakov earned his second gold of the evening as part of the winning men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team.
In other medals, Republic of Moldolva’s Tatiana Salcutan won the women’s 200m backstroke, and Czech Republic’s Barbora Seemanova won the women’s 100m freestyle.